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THE TALE OF MY EXILE 



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THE TALE OF MY EXILE 



BARINORA KUMAR CHOSE 



1922 
Publisbed by Arya Offlee, Poadlcherry 



CONTENTS 

Chapter I. The Voyage into the Unknown 

„ II. A Survey of the Unknown 

„ III. A Survey of the Settlement 

„ IV. The Beginnings of the Cellular Life 

„ V. The Reign of Khoyedad Khan 

'„ VI. The Strike 

„ VII. The Outcoine of the Strike 

„ VIII. Strike again 

„ IX. Causes of Degeneration among 
Convicts 

„ X. Some Snapshots from Prison Life . 

„ XI. A Summary of Sorrows 

.. XII. A Personal Word 



1 
19 
30 

42 

63 

78 

104 

114 

120 
131 
145 
155 




BarindraHumar Qhose 
Cas an under-trial prisoner, 1908) 



IrbUMAK AST SCHDOL^i 



IV 



The Tale of my Exile 



CHAPTER I. 

THE VOYAGE INTO THE UNKNOWN. 

TT was perhaps on the 1 1th of December of the 
yearl909. Therehasbeenacompleteoverhaul 
of things during my twelve years' exile. Yet the 
changes outside are not so remarkable when com- 
pafed to the change in my memory. This faculty 
seems to have fallen into a moribund condition 
and can only groan at its best. All the past events 
have become there shadowy and uncanny ima- 
ges, as it were, parading in a drunken brain. Cer- 
tainly one must not expect from me any ordered 
narration of facts in their logical relation' of time 
and place. So I beg to be excused at the very 
outset, if I happen to commit the blunder of pun- 
ishing Jack for the crime of Peter. My only 
hope is that I have Upen behind the curtain who 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

promises, in case of difficulty, to whisper loudly 
enough into my ears ; and I on my side, promise 
to repeat then just what he says and not fabricate 
any thing out of my imagination. Therefore my 
readers are kindly requested to consider this tale 
of the Andamans as the joint utterance of two 
tongues and to take it from me that whatever I 
have 'said therein is true and pleasant — I have 
not transgressed the injunctions of our Shastras 
by saying either the untrue or the unpleasant. 

While in the Alipur Jail, we were lodged in 
the "Forty-four Degree ". The Alipur Jail of 
those days has now been converted into the Presi- 
dency Jail. The other day on our return from 
the Andamans we could not recognise our ancient 
bed of sorrows in its present transfigured aspect 
of prosperity. I said, we were in the " Forty four 
Degree ". This requires annotation, otherwise 
my innocent readers would not easily understand 
that the thing has no reference to any thermome- 
tric affair. " Forty-four Degree " means a bar- 
rack of 44 cells. These cells, although contiguous 
to each other, have each its separate court-yard 
of about 3 or 4 cubits square surrounded on all 



THE VOYAGE INTO THE UNKNOWN. 

sides by walls. To each yard there is a door closed 
by a single wooden leaf. And in that leaf there is 
an eyelet set with glass through which the guards 
peep into the cage and observe the doings of the 
two-legged animal within. Along the front of the 
row of.cells runs another long yard which also in 
its turn is bounded by high walls. In this yard 
there is a sentry-box, that is to say, a small erec- 
tion like a wooden chariot where the guards 
take rest. It is here that the white sentry with his 
blood-red face saunters about, rifle on shoulder, 
and considers the whole world nothing more than 
a toy. And yet these kilted, helmeted, blue-eyed 
watchmen are not terrible things, they appear so 
only when looked at from a distance. I have made 
friends with them later on, handled them and 
found them to be as harmless as our tame 
and innocent Pussys. 

The first three or four cells of this " Forty 
four Degree " are called condemned cells, that is 
to say, cells for prisoners condemned to death. 
I and UUas were then booked to cross to the other 
shore of the world, with the halter round our 
necks. The order of execution was dangling over 



3 



THE TALE Ot MY EXILE 

our heads, like a dagger suspended with a fine 
thread. The Appeal was going on in the High 
Court. If the judge was just, we would have to 
be buried alive in the Andamans and if he was 
unjust we would have to think of God and swing 
down from the gallows. In either case the result 
was almost the same. All others did the jute- 
teasing, walked about in the yard outside at ba- 
thing and meal time, and exchanged, behind the 
backs of the Duennas, a few stealthy glances or 
a still fewer jokes — at least, indulged in grinning 
at each other to their hearts' content. But we two 
were considered already as mere birds of passage 
on this earth and were deprived of these plea- 
sures. We were shut up without work night and 
day ; we had to do our bathing and eating in 
that closed and fenced court yard of 4 cubits 
square. The only human beings we were allowed 
to see were the bull-like jailor Mr. Hill, a super- 
intendent whose "visitings were few and farbet- 
-ween ", Mr. Wilshaw, the head warder, as worn 
-out and wind-blown as the gouty horse of a 
backney-coach and a jail policeman every three 
hours in turn. As for natural scenery there was the 



THE VOYAGE INTO THE UNKNOWN 

capivating little bit of blue sky, the soothing yel- 
low and sun-lit tops of a few mango, jack, aswa- 
ttha and pepool trees peering over the walls 14 
cubit high and the free wanderings of birds and 
their unrestrained chirpings. We did not see 
green grass and blossoming flowers and things 
like them for seven months. Excepting once 
I had not the opportunity to see or have the com- 
pany of a familiar and friendly soul in the 
course of my daily routine. But I was then comp- 
letely immersed in my Sadhana and so I could 
bear this dearth of love and affection, this famine 
to my eyes and ears. All suffering and sorrow 
glided down like water over an oily surface, none 
developed into a thorn and stuck into my bosom. 
Mr. Hill was a man of tough fibre and yet 
loved me much. He would fain have rocked me 
in his arms as if I were a babe and would say, 
"One cannot believe that this creature has done 
such a monstrous deed". A new Superintendent 
replaced him for a few days. He had read a letter 
written by me to my brother ( Aurobindo ) about 
spiritual things. So he got hold of me and insisted 
that I must give him Sadhana. I was in a fix. I 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

tried to make him understand in all possible ways 
that I was a raw novice myself in these matters 
and had absolutely nothing to give to others. But 
he would not be refused. He stuck to me for 
some time and then when he could not get round 
me, became terribly wild with me. As for the 
head warder, Mr. Wilshaw, he was bent upon 
discoursing to me on " the Supreme Father in 
Heaven " and the " Repentance of a Sinner. " I 
respected his undaunted perseverance and listen- 
ed to him with the utter humility of a devotee. 
I did not want to wound his feelings by disclosiijg 
to him the sort of iconoclast to whom he was 
preaching the love of Christ, His father had been 
an Engineer who it appears used to boil old 
rusted nails in water and give his children the 
iron tonic to drink. It was not difficult for me 
to understand after this the reason why the intel- 
lect of the son got so rusted. The man was a 
Quaker, absolutely simple but as great a bigot 
as could be in upholding the sanctity of Law. 

It was perhaps in the beginning of December 
that the death sentence upon me and Ullaskar was 
cpmmuted to transportation for life. That time 



THE VOYAGE INTO THE UNKNOWN. 

when I was about to die, I did not want to, die. 
I prayed to God with my heart and soul, " Give 
me back my life if only this time, I can not now 
die at ease and in the plenitude of the bliss that 
lies in the emancipation from all bondage. '' The 
soul's earnest desire does not go unfulfilled. It 
was perhaps why the Lord heard me. Death just 
grazed past me. Tiger-like it fell upon Charu one 
day and carried him off ifrom my neighbouring 
cell. Another day the British Lion came and 
broke Kanai's neck ; it came again some time 
after and swallowed my uncle, Satyen. The De- 
vourer came close to me, smelt my limbs like a 
pet cat, . went round me and even prepared to 
pounce, but suddenly turned back and departed. 
Perhads its stomach was full, as it had already 
feasted upon three entire patriots. 

After the High Court judgment was given, we 
remained for about a forlnight in the Alipur 
Jail. Then came our turn to voyage in(o the un- 
known — to go to the Andamans. In the afternoon 
of the 11th of December, the ordinary convicts 
put on bijtr-fetteis and, jingling them like anklets, 
started for Taktaghat to embark on S. S. thi 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

Maharaja. Everything was arranged also to take 
us out in the afternoon, but for some reason or 
other we were fed and in the usual manner put 
into our cells. But about 3 or 4 o'clock in the 
early morning there was a hue and cry-—" Get up. 
Get up 1 Be ready. " And in that biting cold, 
with a cloth that barely reached our knees, a 
kurta with half-sleeves and a turban on, we came 
shivering in all our limbs and sat down in rows 
near the gate. What a funny spectacle we must 
have offered then ! A wooden ticket dan^glingon 
to an iron ring round the neck, — just like the bell 
that is hung on to the neck of a bullock — , fetters 
on the legs and that apparel ! We looked at each 
other's figure and could hardly contain our laugh- 
ter. But we were still within the jurisdiction 
of the prison and there was no means of throwing 
ourselves on the ground and letting out the sup- 
pressed sentiment with which we were burdened 
to suffocation. 

Pleasure and pain in this world are a mere 
matter of circumstances. What is heart-rending 
pain in one set of circumstances, is exactly the 
"pleasure that is desired in another set of circum- 



8 



THE VOYAGE mxO THE UNKNOWN 

stances. Take a boy of the Tagore: family, itrim 
and tidy and finely costumed, pull him down 
from his motor car and force on him those gro- 
tesque accoutrements in which we were, he will 
perhaps in shame and grief run straight to the 
Ganges and jump into its watei's to drown him- 
self. But for us, we were siniply delighted with 
the thing, our soul was absolutely tired of- the 
same monotonous routine bi remaining shut up^ 
teasing jute, getting blows from the warders and 
practising the austerity of forced silence. So even 
this masquerading, being a new thing, was really 
delightful to us. This voyage into the trackless 
ocean, into the world of topsy-turvydom seemed 
to us only a pleasant picnic. 

When we came out of the prison, we saw 
awaitin-g uswhatlooked like a Girls' Schobl omni- 
bus. The carriage had about the same dimen- 
sions, the shutters closing in on all sides in the 
same -Way, and while it moved on, it gave out a 
similar rumbling sound. We used to go to the 
Court in this very carriage. We were then the 
government's Zenana, more within the Purda 
and more invisible to the sun than the most 



9 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

respectable Indies. So we quietly got into that 
hole and were locked in. We drove towards the 
jetty, our hearts swimming in gladness. There 
were mounted Policemen all around. On the foot 
-board, on the top, on the sides of the carriage 
there were European sergeants. The carriage 
drove on shaking the streets. Something similar 
to what happens when a sodawater bottle is sud- 
denly opened befell us when the carriage start- 
ed and our tongues, tied for seven long months, 
found immediately full and free play. Words 
suppressed and stored up for such a long time be- 
gan to shoot up like a gushing fountain, paying 
no heed either to sequence or to sense. 

When we reached the jetty there was yet 
some time for daybreak. The Superintendent, Mr. 
Emerson, was there standing with hfs bike. Moun- 
ted policemen could be seen in every direction. 
We got on board the Maharaja, the ferry boat 
that was to carry us across the Black Waters. 
We were shoved in within a hold in thei lower 
deck. A long chain was fixed on to the plankr 
ing of that room and handcuffs were attached 
to it at the interval of a yard or so. All the seven 



10 



THE VOYAGE INTO THE UNKNOWN 

of US were made to sit down and were handcuffed 
in order. Then the door was locked and a sentry 
placed outside. Now, let me tell the names of 
these pioneer Andaman-goers of the pioneer 
Bomb case. Their fame is, of course, already 
world-wide and there is no necessity at all of 
gilding the gold or painting thie lily. They were 

1. Sri Barindra Kumar Ghose 

2. Sri Ullaskar Datta 

3. Sri Hem Chandra Das 

4. Sri Hrishikesh Kanjilal 

5. Sri Indu Bhushan Roy 

6. Sri Bibhuti Bhushan Sarkar 

7. Sri Abinash Chandra Bhattacharyya 

As soon as the door was locked and we were 
left alone, the whole place became a regular pan- 
demonium. In that queer position, with the hand- 
cuffs on and lying on the floor aslant on one side, 
some burst out in song, others raised a tremen- 
dous storm of talk and chatter, others again shook 
the entire ship with their sallies of jokes and 
peals of laughter. What a din it was, what a row 1 
But it bore good result. The Captain of the ship, 



11 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

the guards and the pohce officers heaved a sigh 
of relief. They understood fronj the hilarious 
demonstration that they had. overshot the mark 
in being too cautious. Perhaps they could not 
sleep several nights over the anxious thought that 
they would have to escort Bomb prisoners to 
Port Blair. Perhaps they were afraid that these 
desperate beings as soon aslthey. boarded the ship 
would, like a band of mad elephants, bring it to 
rack and ruin. But they found us to be quite a 
merry-going sort of people ; and as soon as the 
ship started they came and freed us from the hand- 
cuffs. Upen and Sudhir had been left behind on 
account of their illness. They came after us to 
Port Blair. The officers of the ship told Upen, 
"We had them handcuffed in the beginning, but 
we found them quite a merry party and so let 
them free. '' 

When thehandcuffs weretakenoff, we spread 
our blankets wide and sat down in regular assem- 
bly. Hemda and Ullasc/a were great singers in 
ithat party. Besides, Ullas was an incomparable 
comic actor and had an inexhaustible fund of 
humour and wit. Hemda was not to be left far 



12 



THE VOYAGE INTO THE UNKNOWN 

behind in all that. Both of them matched each 
other most perfectly. Grief and sorrow could not 
in any way approach the placa where these two 
happened to be present. One song followed an- 
other in a continuous stream. Words that were 
shut up so long began to gush out interminably 
like fireworks. So long as we have our teeth, we 
do not understand their value. We did not know 
before what a relief it is to talk to men. 

We did not know so many things and we 
learnt so many things during these long years 
in which we had to lead the life of a shuttle buffet- 
ted and bruised at every turn. The sort of world- 
ly knowledge and. experience that most of us 
had was not much greater than what the simian 
allies of Sri Ramchandra possessed. I should, 
of course, make an exception in favour of Hem 
da, who had wife and children, had had dealings 
with police people in connexion with his service, 
and who was, as it were, furnaced and ham- 
mered into a man. 

.Thus singing and chatting and playing and 
joking we launched for our unknown Isle* We 

13 



THE TALK OF MY EXILK 

had not the least idea of what the Kalapani was, 
what we should eat, what we should do there. 

There was a bucket by the side of a gutter 
within the room. It was the latrine. If anybody 
went there to meet the demands of Nature, the 
others had nothing else to do but shut their eyes. 
"Nothing is of avail so long as the triad — shame, 
pride and fear — remains ". So the teaching goes 
and the practice of it we began from now. There 
was a port-hole, set with thick glass, in the 
side of the ship. One could take a jump and be- 
fore coming down again attracted by mother earth 
have just a glimpse of the wild and tumultuous 
bosom of the blue ocean. A thing of beauty is by 
itself sufficiently attracting. And if it is momen- 
tary, into the bargain, the magic charm it throws 
is irresistible. The full-moon night dedicated to 
the goddess Laxmi comes only once in a year 
and therefore it makes a thousand hearts so glad 
and radiant and full to overflowing. If it were 
a thing of everyday occurrence people would 
have sighed for the ink-black New Moon and sat 
down to write poetry on it. So a moment's vision 
of the boundless limpid blue enthralled our sou). 



U 



THE VOYAGE INTO THE UNKNOWN 

like a beautiful face half-hidden behind the veil. 
And time and anon, I andBibhuti and Indu and 
Ullasrffl would take a spring, even with the fetters 
on, and try to catch a sight of the thing that mere 
eyes could hardly embrace. 

At about two o'clock the door opened and 
some people entered, like pilgrims to Jugger- 
nath, with bundles and baggages and baskets. 
What was the matter ? We learnt that they were 
Bhandaris (stewards) and came to distribute 
fried oats, ehuda, chilli and salt among us. So 
we must live on chuda ! Heavens, what a stag' 
gering blow it was ! We asked the time and thpy 
said it was two o'clock in the afternoon. We 
were dumb-founded. We thought it was nine 
o'clock in the morning. We were so much taken 
up with our conversation that we had lost all 
sense of time. None noticed when and how the 
hours had slipped by without giving us the least 
intimation. All on a sudden volleyed out the inter- 
minable cry, "Have chuda," " Ha.ve chhola " I 
What the deuce did they mean ? Were we houses, 
or were we Bhojpur Darwans that we should 
munch chuda ? "Chuda and that sort of thing 



15 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

won't do, my dears sirs. Can't you give us rice ? " 
— so we said. They replied, "The Mussahnans 
cook rice and the Mussalmans eat it; but the Hin- 
dus, ever afraid of their fragile caste, eat only oats 
and save their dharma. " I murmured " O Mo> 
ther. Goddess of Plenty ! Hast thou then put on 
the appearance of a Mollah in these days of dire 
necessity ?" A rebellious "young Bengal" from 
among us rolled his wrathful eyes, flourished 
his clenched fist and uttered "Who can des- 
troy our caste ? Our dharma is built in iron, 
come on, let us' have the mlechha rice, we shall 
eat it. Are not the Mlechhas men?" The Sikh 
policemen were very much enraged at this. 
They said " Would you give up your caste, Ba- 
bus ? AH right, we shall cook for you. " The 
hungry Bengalee is proverbially known to run 
after rice with the blind dash of a wild boar. 
It was rice that we wanted and we did not care 
from where it came. So we said "Amen ". We 
had chuda in the morning and in the afternoon 
th& delightful rice with some pumpkin prepara- 
tion. Abinash had an abscess in the tubercular 
glands. The doctor prescribed milk for him. 



16 



THE VOYAGE INTO THE: UNKNOWN 

And then we were to get up on the deck 
to take air. We mounted a steep and narrow 
wooden staircase and what a task it was for us, 
laden as we were with fetters. But when we rea- 
ched the top, the scene that revealed itself to us 
was incomparable, beyond any words to express. 
No shore was visible on any side. There was only 
the blue water breaking into waves and over it 
the blue sky leaning down to kiss it. What a tran- 
quil and entrancing far-flung infinite above and 
what a magic vastness below tremulous with 
delight ! 

The poet says of the Sacred river — 

" The sins of the Earth are being washed away into its 
Tast and deep bosom. It resounds with the clattering of the 
shattered ro^ks oi all evijs and dangers. When the dread 
hour of doom strikes — " 

the spectacle of the ocean is as comforting and 
as full of a sweet meaning as that of the Narma- 
da. We were seven in that room of ours, And 
there were seven miserable women prisoners 
in the adjoining room, who alsp with the sen- 
tence of transportation on their heads were now 
drifting like us, perhaps into a far greaiter un- 



17 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

known. We were then eager to know what sort 
of a thing the Andamans were. We gathered 
something about it from the sentries, who all 
belonged to the police force of the Andamans 
and the Nicobars. 

On the morning of the 1 5th there appear- 
ed the shore like a black line far upon the 
bosom of the wide azure. We were taken to the 
deck at eleven. The infinite expanse of the un- 
known had then drawn in and showed on either 
side a magic creation of Nature's woodland 
beauty. And what a beauty it was that the Earth 
offered, with the hills and forests as her locks 
and tresses ! How could cruel fetters be as- 
sociated with what was so beautiful ! Yet, this 
anomaly did indeed stand incarnate in the An- 
damans, this fowler's trap set there to catch men. 
But one would hardly believe it from its appea- 
rance. And yet do we not know how many sins 
and deaths are likewise hidden behind the snare 
that feminine Beauty has spread in our world ? 
The blossoming lotus has its roots in the mud 
and its stalk is encircled by the serpent. Such 
is the art of the divine artifex. 



18 



CHAPTER 11 

A SURVEY OF THE UNKNOWN 

'"P'HE Andamans and the Nicobars are groups 
-*- of islands in the Bay of Bengal. They lie 

like a chain severed and spread out from end to 
end. The chain begins at a distance of 590 miles 
from the mouths of the Hughly. The nearest ap- 
proach from the Andamans to the continent of 
India is Cape Negres in Burma, a distance of 
160 miles. Within this range again there are two 
other small groups of islands, named the Peparis 
and the Coco. The former is situated just in the 
midway, while the latter almost touches the 
Andamans. There are, moreover, two Cbcos, a 
large one and a small one. 

The Andamans consist of four principal 
islands which are ranged in a line from North 
to South. To one going from India, the first 
that comes in the way is the Xorth Andaman, 
then the Middle Andataan and finally the South 
Andaman. Ail these three lie close together and 



19 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

are oval-shaped.. Further to the south of the 
South Andaman there is a small island, called 
the Rutland Isle. Round about these four there 
lie scattered innumerable groups of diminutive 
islands. It will be sufHcieut to name some of the 
important ones among them. To the west coast 
of the North and the Middle Andaman there is the 
Interview Island and near the east coast of the 
South Andaman there are the Havelock Island 
;and the Archipelago, 

The North Andaman is 51 miles in length, 
the Middle Andaman 59 miles, the South Anda- 
man 49 miles and Rutland only 11 miles. These 
four form the Great Andaman. About 28 miles 
to the south of this group lies the Little Anda- 
man which is 30 miles in length and 17 miles 
in breadth. 

All the islands are full of hills and fo- 
rests. The land is stony and yet it is so beauti- 
ful. It has veiled half its limbs with its wood- 
land tresses and has half submerged itself in 
the bosom of its lover, the wild and erratic sea. 
One does not know when did the lady descend 
for the first time to take her bath, H6r hath- 



20 



A SURVEY OF THE UNKNOWN 

inJ5 game has not ended even to-day. H<er pit- 
cher has perhaps floati'd away over the dark 
waves, but the hill-girl is too busy with iher play 
Jo take note of the thing ! 

The highest peak of these hills is in North 
Andaman. It is called the Saddle Mountain and 
has a height of 3000 ft. 

The play of the six seasons here is very cha- 
racteristic. The rains are almost always a com- 
mon factor. The only other prominent season is 
the summer. One can hardly detect when and 
how the rest of the seasons peep and pass ofif 
stealthily before or behind those two. All the 
seasons are more oi less damp with the rain ex- 
cepting the summer and the few months of 
the temperate winter. Sometimes it is one con- 
tinuous menace of masses of pitch-dark clouds ; 
at other times it is an alternate play of rain and 
sunshine — like the mingled tears and laughter 
of a wilful woman. Before, the rain con- 
tinued for 8 months but now the period has 
become shorter, after the forests have been 
cleared to some extent. Altogether, there is no 
fixity about the seasons. All of them run into 



21 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

each other and offer a most kaleidoscopic spec- 
tacle. 

The, dark waters of the sea have cleft the 
sides of this rocky woodland in all directions 
and have fornied innumerable channels into it. 
Leaves rot here when the water goes out with 
the ebb-tide and so malaria has found a very 
congenial home in this place. The armies of 
mosquitoes that carry that disease are simply 
incalculable. There is a species of mosquitoes 
which are very strange to look at and as big as 
spiders. They stand on their long, and lanky 
legs and swing continually and swing so fast 
that they are hardly visible. Mosquitoes and 
small flies are so abundant in the forest that 
it is not possible for any human being to re- 
main there for any length of time. Besides, there 
are leaches of which any number can be seen 
on leaves and grass and KachU hushes. They 
remain hidden when the sun shines. But a little 
shower is sufficient to invite them out in hun- 
dreds ; they sally forth if they get only the 
smell of man, they drop on his head from above. 
The biggest typfe of centipede that is found here 



22 



A SURVEY OF THE UNKNOWN 

is about 1 cubit long and 1 inch thick. Its bite 
has produced even paralysis. Snakes are not 
very poisonous. The cobra is almost a rarity. 
There was a sort of small snake, of the viper kind, 
whose poison brought instantaneous and certain 
death. But this snake is now found sometimes 
only in the deeper parts ot the forests. The Anda- 
mans are specially a land of insects and butterflies. 

There were almost no wild birds before. 
And the few that there were, could not be 
seen on the Indian coasts. The Artamas and 
Oriolus of the Andamans are found only in the 
far-off Java, and the shrike in China and the 
Philippines. There were a few pigeons, king- 
fishers and wood-peckers. After the colony had 
been established the Government imported some 
crows, sparrows, parrots, kites, cranes and other 
birds and let them loose here. It is these. that 
are now propagating their species. The peacock 
has also been imported. There is also a small 
frugivorous bat which there existed before. 

Of the wild animals there were boars, wild 
cats and a kind of rat with a row of long hair 
on the back. Now cows, buffaloes and goats 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

and also wild deer, jackals and dogs have been 
brought over and domiciled. These alsOjlike us, 
have been transported for all their life. Fero- 
cious animals, such as the tiger and the bear, do 
not exist here at all. As for the creatures that peo- 
ple the ocean, there is an infinite variety of them 
— conch, oister, snail, the rain-bow coloured tor- 
toise — what strange forms and what variegated 
colours ! There is a kind of fish which has ex- 
actly the face of a horse, another which has the 
bill of a crow, and yet another — the bladder fish 
— which looks like a human head. There is the 
" badmash " ( rogue ) fish with the appearance 
of a shark and the jelly-fish, like a bit of lim- 
pid ice. The shankar fish is also abundant, 
Its tail makes a very good whip. It can with a blow 
of its tail cut open the flesh and break the bone. 
The bladder fish, when frightened, swells up, 
looking like a decapitated human head and puffs 
out jets of water from its mouth and stares with 
its eyes wide open. There is another kind of fish 
which in fright, throws out some inky substance 
to make the water turbid and escapes. 

The place is not rich in natural products. 



24 



A SURVEY OF THE UNKNOWN 

Port Blair and the Nicobars grow mainly coco- 
nut trees. The forests grow also Sal, Garjan, 
Padouk, Coco and other trees which yield good 
timber. This and coconuts are the principal ar- 
ticles of trade. Only a small portion of this 
woody country is inhabited by men and under 
cultivation and that is Port Blair. The Giavern- 
ment is now trying to have small establishments 
here and there in the Middle and the North 
Andaman. The rest of this archipelago is co- 
vered with dense and almost impenetrable fo- 
rests. The forest Department has made a sur- 
vey of these forests and has prepared maps and 
charts. These show the number of trees in each 
square mile, the location of all waterfalls and 
basins. Most of them have been drawn by 
Hemrffl. 

The Government has a monopoly of an- 
other trade article, which is called the Edible 
Bird's Nest. The swift is a small black bird 
which prepares, with a saliva-like secretion 
from its mouth, a kind of white nest. The Edible 
Bird's Nest is a medicine for nervous debility. 
It is something like white wax, has no taste 



25 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

and is taken with milk. There is a great deinand 
for it in China and in Rangoon, 

The first use of the Andamans as a penal 
settlement dates from the Sepoy Mutiny. Its 
history, previous to that event, is quite uncertain 
and vague. 

The name Andamahs is found in the writ- 
ings of the Arabian travellers, of Marco Polo, 
Nicolo Conti and others. The Fourth Regula- 
tion of 1797 gave the Nizamat Adalat the power 
to transport prisoners. At that time, the places 
for transportation were Singapore, Penang, 
Malaca, Tenasserim, and others. The first at- 
tempt to convert the Andamans into a penal 
settlement was made in 1788-89 under the direc- 
tion of Engineer Colebrooke and Captain Blair. 
The penal settlement was twice established, first 
in the Chatham Isle of the South Andaman and 
then in the Cornwallis Port of the North Anda- 
man, but on both the occasions it had to be 
given up, as man could not live in such unheal- 
thy places. After the Mutiny Dr. F. Mouat came 
and recommended the Chatham Isle for keeping 
prisoners. So in 18S8 thenew Settlement wasstar- 



26 



A SURVEY OF THE UNKNOWN 

ted with rebel prisoners; ordinary prisoners began 
to be lodged herefrom 18^3; In 1870 Colonel 
Henry Man hadthejungles and forests cleared, the 
ditches filled up and thus made the place tolera- 
bly healthy. Some 13000 mal'e prisoners and from 
700 to 800 female prisoners are kept here usually. 
The free population num'bers about 2000. 

The natives of these islands are a wild and 
aboriginal people. They remain naked and are 
called Jarrawallah. They are perfect marks- 
men in archery artd shoot down men with arrows 
whenever thtey happen to meet one. Like the 
Semang tribe of Malay, the Jarras are short in 
stature, black in complexion, have small and 
well-shaped ears and possess close-cropped but 
curly hair. There is a tall-statured and long- 
haired section of the Jarras which is found, 
it appears, in the Rutland and the Interview 
Isle. Perhaps they are products of a mixture 
with some other tribe. The /arras generally are 
4^ ft. high, remain naked, have almost no beard 
and mark their forehead with a tattoo point. 
They paint all their limbs with white and red 
earth. Their food is fish, tortoise, honey and 



27 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

wild fruits. They are a race of fighters. There 
is no escape from their hands when once they 
fix the arrow to their 6 ft long bow of hard 
wood. They come so silently and stealthily, like 
a wild b"ast, that they do not attract any atten- 
tion. They observe from a distance and shoot 
the arrow with an unerring aim. There has 
been no truce as yet between them and the En- 
glish. They remain away in the forests from 
fear of rifles and guns. They come now and 
then near the skirts and when they have taken 
their toll of one or two victims are driven off 
again. They are a monogamous race. They are 
very skilful in swimming. Their population is 
about 8 to 10 thousand. 

Five years after the establishnient of the 
settlement at Port Blair, a band of these savages 
came to be tamed by the English. These are 
no longer called J arras, but Janglis (Savages) 
— the real J arras never fail to kill them even, if 
once they see them. The Government has crea- 
ted some barracks for them. These Janglis come 
to the barracks with honey, tortoise-shells, sea- 
shells, conches, oysters and various other forest 



28 



A SURVEY OF THE UNKNOWN 

and sea products which, they gather in itheif 
roamings. The munshi of the barracks gives 
them tobacco, tea, sugar, glass- beads or what- 
ever they choose to have in return for 'heir 
articles, which he then stocks in the godown 
for sale or sends to the show room. They, re- 
main for 8 or 9 days and when they have suffi- 
ciently rested, go, out again to scour the forests. 
The men put on a lenguti ( a band of cloth ), 
3 or 4 inches wide. The women wear leaves and 
sometimes also a kind of frilled bark or plaited 
fibres of some trees. This latter is of course the 
sign of growing civilisation. I have seen small 
boys and girls in the barracks whose fathers 
were Ooriyas or even Sahebs. There was a girl 
— most probably issue of a European father 
— who was so pretty that she did not at all 
look like a Jangli. Very often she used to throw 
off her clothes and other useless trappings of 
civilisation and run, away to roam in the forests 
as she pleased. She;COuld not abandon her wild 
nature of a free bird in the free sky. 

Their, language is not understandable. It 
has a nasal twang and is not at all rich in voca- 

29 



THE TALE OK MY EXILE 

bulary. They have a very thin voice. They natu- 
rally possess the sharp contralto that ( European ) 

ladies take so muqh pains to master and at- 

* 
tain. 

The Barrack of the jangiis is near the 
Shore Point and there is a hcKpital for them 
-which is near the Haddo station. Till now two 
Jangli women have learnt English and have 
become christians. One' of them is the matron 
of the hospital and the other is the female com- 
panion of the Chief Commissioner's wife. 



CHAPTER III. 

A SUKVEY OF THE SETTLEMENT 

T have tried to give a general idea of what sort 
-*- of a thing the Prison-Island is in itself. I will 
now describe first the outside arrangements con- 
nected with^tlie prison. The S. S. Maharaja 
goes to Calcutta at the interval of forty days to 
bring the convicts. During these forty days it 
goesortce to Madras and twice to 'Rangoon. A 

30 



A SURVEY OF THE SETTLEMENT 

consignment despatched from Calcutta may con- 
sist, however, of Bengali, Assamese, Punjabi, 
Hindusthani, Ooriya and Madrasee convicts. Or- 
dinary prisoners on their arrival are landed at first 
in the Quarantine Camp, near Hope Town. This 
camp is just bglow Mount Harriet and is in charge 
of a convict Compounder and a convict Jamadar. 
When a fresh batch is in here, no othef prisoners 
are admitted. The batch remains shut up in this 
place for two weeks. This is to prevent plague 
or any contagious disease from entering Port 
Blair, The prisoners have to lie d6wn and sleep 
all these days with their fetters and other para- 
pbarnalia exactly as they come. They are also 
given from time to time light work, .^uch as 
mowing the grass and sweeping the roads. 

On the 16th day the prisoners are removed 
from the Plague Gamp to the prison. The 
march to the prison is a real sight to see. Bun- 
dles and beddings are on bent backs and dou- 
bled up bodies, the fetters jingling like anklets 
on the legs, all the eyes quivering and starring 
with fear. The miserables trudge along row 
after row. In front and behind the red-turbaned 



31 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

warders shout "This side", "Go straight", 
" Sit down ", '' Sarcar " and drive that flock of 
terrified cattle. And finally the prison appeats 
with its huge massive structure of a fortress. The 
Petty Offiders^ the Janiadars and the Tindals 
come in black uniform, red turban on the head 
and bludgeon in hand. The warders vociferate 
fiercely. The poor prisoners almost feel they 
are dead already. Then begins the ceremony of 
breaking the' fetters and changing the dress. On 
the next day after a sort of medical examination 
— by Mr. Murray who ruled in our time^- 
Mr. Barry assigned work to the convicts. This 
King Yama of the Prison, with his huge pot 
belly, flat nose, blood-red face comes holding a 
stick under his arm and thrusting into his 
mouth a four inches long and proportionately 
broad Burma cheroot that juts out of the prickly 
bush of his moustache. He slowly marches 
in front of the file of prisoners and orders as he 
writes down on their tickets, " Six months sepa- 
rate confinement," "two pounds jute-teasing", 
"one year lockup, oil-grinding", "Two years 
imprisonment, six months separate confinement" 

32 



A A SURVEY OF THE SETTLEMENT 

and so on. Those who are given oil-grinding 
bid adieu to sleep for that night. They are fortu- 
nate who get the work of a water-carrier or 
sweeper or rope-maker and heave a sigh of re- 
lief. But those who get coir-pounding are in a 
state of suspense, as it were, between life and 
death. For coir-pounding although a lighter 
task than oil-grinding is still not:quite easy. 

The convicts in this way, either in happi- 
ness or in sorrow, serve each his term of punish- 
ment and one day come out of the prison ^or 
a freer life outside. Then they are no longer 
the raw, timid and simple souls of old. They have 
suffered much,, t.hey have cheated and been 
cheated much, they have been trained in the 
hands of expert and veteran jail-birds. So even 
if they are not perfect rogues yet, they have 
made immense progress towards that ideal. 

The day before they are released from the 
prison, a telephone is sent to the Aberdeen sta- 
tion and one Tindal with four or five Petty 
Officers arrives to take charge of them. The con- 
victs come from the Indian prisons with dhoti, 
kurta and turban. They enter the Andaman 



33 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

prison with shorts, kurta and topi. And when 
they are let off for settlement life they put on 
their old suit again and thus get back their old 
status. The chief overseer of the prison, the 
jailor, Mr. Barry, and the gate-keeper hand over 
totheTindaloutside these 70 or 80 convicts form- 
ing one batch along with their beddings, utensils 
and clothes. So soon as this is done, once 
more the cry of. the guards — "Two by twos", 
"Stand up" and so on— startles and terrifies 
the pbor creatures and once more they are dri- 
ven, with baggage on their backs, to a Tapoo 
or station outside. Here orders of the higher 
authorities are already secured on the fife- 
vious day and accordingly the Munshi and 
the Jamadar divide the whole batch into groups 
of 10 or 12 and send each to its assigned place. 
Port Blair is divided into four Districts, (1) 
the Ross District, (2) the Eastern District, (3) 
the Western District and (4) the Jail District. 
The Ross Isle is the chief town and therefore 
forms a district by itself. The Eastern District 
has the following stations : Aberdeen, Phoenix 
Bay, Middle Point, Navy Bay, Paharh G'aon 



34 



A SURVEY OF THE SETTLEMENT 

and Haddo. The special works that are given 
to Aberdeen convicts are road-making, goods- 
lading at the Jetty, stone-breaking and sweeping. 
They are also engaged in the Engineering Go- 
down and in the coconut file. Phoenix Bay "has 
a large workshop which manufactures various 
articles from iron,, brass, conch-shells, tortoise 
shell and wood. Some three to four hundred 
people are engaged here. Besides this there arc 
also, ail the usual works, such as sweeping, road- 
makingj and other things. The Middle Point is 
named by the convicts chholdari. The con- 
victs of this place have to do the usual works 
and besides some have to go and work in 
the garden and the Engineering Godown at 
Haddo. There are large vegetable gardens and 
fruit-gardens at Navy Bay. The convicts here 
have to do also repair works at the embank- 
ment. The convicts of Paharh Gaon come 
to assist in these works at Navy Bay and also 
go to the forests t© cut canes. There is also a 
big hospital at Haddo. 

The stations in the Western District are 
Chatham, Shore Point, the Jangli Barrack, 

35 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

Dundas Point, Viper, Wimberleygunj, Kalatang 
and Baratang. * Chatham is famous for its Saw- 
mill. All the timbers of the Andaman Forest 
Department are sawed here by machine and 
planks, rafters and beams are made out of them. 
Shore Point has a fish-gang and a coconut-gang. 
There is also an Engineering Godown here. The 
Jangli Barrack has already been described in 
connexion with the savage tribes of the Anda- 
mans. Dundas Point is famous for its brick- 
kiln. Some hundreds of convicts work here. 
Viper is the Chief-Town of the Western District. 
The District Officer has his Court and bangalow 
here. The chief works here are connected with 
the vegetable garden, the play-ground, the Hos- 
pital, the Jetty file and also bamboo and cane 
cutting. At Wimberleygung there is a curd-house 
and a fuel file. The jurisdiction of the Forest 
Department begins from this place and continues 
up to Baratang. Kalatang is in the midst of the 
deep forest. Here is the tea garden of the re- 
doutable manager Mr. Minto. This place is a 
terror to the convicts, for the work in the tea 
garden is most difficult. Baratang lies still fur- 

36 



A SURVEY OF THE SETTLEMENT 

ther in the heart of the' forest and is the chief 
centre of the Forest Department, 

A station means a block of 6 or 7 barracks. 
Each station is in charge of a convict Jamadar 
and a convict Munshi. A convict becomes by 
gradual promotions in the course of 10 or 12 
years a Jamadar. He then gets a red badge to 
which is attached a brass plate with the word 
Jamadar inscribed on it. This he slings across his 
shoulder, like the sacred thread. The Jamadar 
gets a salary of Rs. 8 a month and also daily 
ration. Under the Jamadar is the Tindal who has 
a black and red badge with a brass plate mark- 
ing the designation of his position. Under each 
Jamadar there are 4 or 5 Tindals. Under the 
Tindal IS the Petty Officer who has only a 
black badge and no brass plate. There are some 
20 to 25 Petty Officers in each station. 

One barrack can contain 60 to 70 convicts. 
It is a wooden construction with tiled roof. 
The floor is made of planks that rest upon posts 
and is a little high above the ground. It has no 
wall, but instead a trellis-work of wood on all 



37 



THE TALE OF MY EXILK 

sides. In that room the convicts spread their 
bed of gunny and blanket side by side in three 
or four rows and lie down. There is a water 
closet on one side. Each barrack has two lights. 
There are four Petty Officers and a Jamadar at 
the head. Sometimes a simple Tindal does the 
watching along with the Petty officers. Each 
has to watch for three hours in turn. The bar- 
rack is closed exactly at night-fall. But the real 
closing is at 8 o'clock, wheh the time is announ- 
ced by gun-fire. After this, no one can go out. 
There are two roU-calls, one just at night-fall 
and the other at 8. 

Early in the morning there is another roll- 
call. The Tindal comes followed by all the 
Petty Officers and gives the order, " Sit up, each 
on his bed ", and then they march down the 
rows and do tiie counting, as of a flock of sheep. 
Thereupon the convicts come out and finish 
their morning toilette. There are several vats 
which the water-carriers fill with *" sweet water" 
toiling during the whole day. " Sweet " how- 
ever does not mean that the water is scented and 
sugared. This is a land of salt water and so 



38 



A SURVEY OF THE SETTLEMENT 

sweet water ( mitha pani ) means nothing but 
drinking water. Each convict has to go with 
an iron can to a Water-can ier who doles out 
the water in a small tin-mug. 

Then again they are made to sit down two 
by two. The poet Shelley wrote Love's Philo- 
sophy in wliich he said, "Nothing in the 
world is single;" In Port Blair the Petty Offi- 
cers and Tindals are ever eager to demonstrate 
this Love's Philosophy by sheer blows. One 
has to hear at all sorts of hours, in the day and 
in the night, when one is up and when one is 
down, this eternal cry, "Be in couples". If 
you rebel, you have forthwith the bludgeon on 
your back or belly or some appropriate place or 
other. These people are such expert mathemati- 
cians that they cannot count unless the men 
sit in couples. They are proceeding with the 
counting marvellously enough, shouting at the 
top of their voice " one, two, three " but sud- 
denly if at the end of the 10th pair they come 
across a poor fellow sitting alone and single, all 
is thrown into confusion. Blows and kicks are 
showered profusely upon the miserable sinner, 



39 



THE TALE OF MV EXILE 

until he is paired with somebody. The count- 
ing then begins again afresh. 

The convicts of all the barracks are gather- 
ed together in this morning review. And" when 
the " all right " report is given, the Jamadar and 
the Munshi divide them in files in accordance 
with the works of the Station. That is to say, 
the Jamadar separates a group of some 10 or 12 
from one side of the entire lot in review and 
hands them over to the charge of, say, the Engi- 
neering Foreman, The Munshi notes the thing 
down immediately. And this is called the P.W. D. 
File. Again some thirty are taken out and 
are given over to the man in charge of the gar- 
den. The Munshi as usual makes a note in his 
book. And this is the Garden File. Now the 
men-in-charge take their respective groups to 
the various centres of work, apportion to each 
individual his work and keep him engaged till 
10 o'clock. After 10, there is again the commo- 
tion of "falling in", of counting and recount- 
ing and of returning to the Station. At the Sta- 
tion the Jamadar counts again and receives back 
his charge. Then follows bathing and dinner 



40 



A SURVEY OF THE SETTLEMENT 

and rest pp to 1 o'clock in the afternoon. 
Then one has again to be present at \he filing, 
to group under his Tindal or Petty Officer and 
start for the work.. The dismissal comes at about 
4 or 5 o'clock. At five all the men sit down 
for meal in a long linCj each with a plate and a 
cup ( bati ) in front. Till night-fall one is, allow- 
ed to walk near about the station and talk 
and make merry freely. 

The time from after the morning meal at 10 
till the files go out in the afternoon is the moment 
for the gunja-smoker to have a secret puff or two. 
' It is the auspicious hour for the gambler. It is 
then that the mbtiey-seeker gets his opportunity 
of earning, by fishing, gathering betel in the fo- 
rest, and by a thousand other devices, T!;iis is 
also the time when the men flock round the par- 
ticular divinity whom they want to propitiate-— 
whether it be the Jamadar Qr the Munshi, or the 
Tindal or the Ration-mate, each now receives 
his quota of Worship in the shape of flattery and 
other offerings from his group of proteges., 

There.is no work on Sunday. One has lOnly 
to clean and sweep the place about the station 



/*! 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

for an hour or two in the morning. You may be 
down on your bed the whole day. Or if you like 
you may try to gain the good graces of the offi- 
cer in charge of your barrack by offering him 
sweet words or still sweeter coins and go over 
to some other station to see a friend of yours. 

This is in general terras the life outside the 
prison. 



CHAPTER IV 
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CELLULAR LIFE 

OUR ship arrived in the harbour. On the 
north lay the Ross Isle, on the south 
the Aberdeen Jetty and the Cellular Jail looming 
like a huge fortress, on the east Mount Harriet 
with its green luxuriance and on the west the 
infinite perspective of the sea. Where did we 
come at last to anchor in this shoreless ex- 
panse ? Should we, when we had lost all 
moorings, find ourselves always thus again 

42 



THE BEGINNINGS OP THE CELLULAR LIFE 

ashore? Perhaps it was not, the harbour that 
we sought for and yet Nature appeared there in 
such a beautiful and captivating aspect ! The 
Ross Isle looks from the bosom of the harbour 
like a veritable landscape painting. On the 
hill-side at various levels lies in natural negli- 
gence, as it were, the red and the white build- 
ings intermixed with the green of the trees and 
woods. Those of my readers who have seen 
Shillong from a distance may form an idea of 
the picture. The only difference is that in the 
present case there is the profuse abundance of 
the liquid blue round about the hills, the pas- 
sionate heaving of the naked bosom of the 
wild sea. The sombre Jetty touches the waters 
of the Ross. Above, the buildings rise, tier upon 
tier, along a meandering path and half-veil 
themselves in the woods. At the top is the 
Bangalow of the Chief Commissioner, of which 
the red-tiled roof can be noticed from a dis- 
tance. The Union Jack flies over the place and 
IS taken down only when the official is absent. 
There is a barrack of British troops in the 
western corner of the Ross, almost in the em- 



43 



THE TALE OF MV EXILE 

brace of the sea. A isky-sci'aping post is planted 
here which carries a red flag at the top when- 
ever it is required to announce the coming in 
of a steamer. Also it 'is meant to be decorated 
with f6stoons of flags and eilsigns on all State 
occasions such as the celebration '■ of the king's 
birthday. 

The highest peak in the Andamans is nam- 
ed Mount Harriet. It is the summer residence, 
that is to say, the Simla Hills of the archipelfegc 
There are many Bangalows on the top of this 
hill. The Chief Commissioner and other of6- 
eials come here and spend some weeks during 
the hottest part of the summer or whenever they 
are in any way indisposed* When we were in 
the Andamans we found the State prisoners of 
Manipur kept here. The Government had granted 
them free lodgings and even lands, also monthly 
allowance and daily ration. They were released 
later on by the King's Proclamation on the 
occasion of the Peace celebration. MoUht Har- 
riet is all covered with dense woods. It seemfe 
as if a shaggy bear is sleeping quietly, hiding its 
muzzle within its paws. The woods have in 



i4 



tHE BEGINNINGS Ol"* THE CELLULAR UhE 

some places the deepest blue colour; at othef 
places where there are rieem and bamboo and 
tamarind trees they look like a mosaic of light 
yellow and again in some places they are red 
with the copper-coloured leaves. A stream has 
burst O^en the hard Bosom of the rocks and 
flows down like a current of silver. It embraces 
the foot of the hill and trips forward with a 
gurgling music td meet the ocean'. 

A steam launch dragged a tighter iot us and 
lay by the ship. The Senipr Medical Officer, 
the Jailor and various other officers came and 
went away. All around there was rushing and 
whirling of motor boats, canoes, lighters and 
steamf-launches. Noiv, before 1 proceed fuHher 
I should give here boihe idea of the Cellular Jail, 
otherwise my innocent readers might lose them- 
selves in a labyrinth of confusion in trying to 
follow me. 

Picture the Jail as a sort of map in the 
centre of which there is a point. This point 
represents a three-storied pillar or minaret. It 
is the Central Tower or Goomti. The circum- 
ference of a circle drawn round this centre re- 



42 



thk tale of mV exile 

presents the outer wall of the Jail. From the 
Central Tower seven straight lines or radii are 
drawn in different directions to join the circum- 
ference. These seven radii represent the seven 
blocks of the prison. Like the Central Tower, 
the blocks also have all "three stories. In each 
story there is a suite of some twenty or thirty 
rooms. Each room has a doot- closed by iron 
bars only, with no door leaf. On the back of the 
room, at a height of 4 cubits and a half, there 
is a small window, closed also with iron rails 
two inches apart. Of furniture in the room 
there is a low bedstead 1 cubit and a half wide 
and in one corner an earthen pot painted with 
tar. One must have a most vigilant sleep on such 
a bed, otherwise any the least careless turn would 
land the sleeper with a bang on the floor. And 
the tarred pot is a most marvellous invention to 
produce equanimity of soul with regard to 
smell, for it is the water-closet and one Jias 
to share merrily its delightful company during 
the whole night. Also it is by the grace of this 
pot that one is compelled to master many of 
the 84 Asanas. The sweeper brings it in regu- 



i6 



THE BEGIKNINGS OF THE CELLULAR LIFE 

larly every afternoon just before the prison is 
closed and takes it away every morning. 

I have said that' the rooms are in a row. 
There is a veranda 3 or 4 cubits wide running 
all along the front. This also is surrounded by 
iron railings fixed into the arched pillars that 
support the roof of the veranda. All these corri- 
dors meet at the Central Tower which has thus 
the only gate for entrance and exit. This gate 
is closed in the night. The rooms are shut by 
means of iron bolts and locks from outside 
and cannot be reached from within. Each 
Block, I have said, is three-storied and consists of 
the Upper Corridor, the Middle Corridor and the 
Lower Corridor. At night four warders are placed 
in each line ( or corridor ) to keep watch. They 
do it by turn, each for three hours. They saun- 
ter to and fro all along the line, with a hurri- 
cane lantern in hand, and observe from time to 
time what the human animals may be doing in 
their cells. In the whole Jail there are 21 ward- 
ers who mount guard simultaneously in the 
21 lines of the 7 blocks. When they have finish- 
ed their turn they wake up the next batch. So 



47 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

• 

in all 84 people share among themselves this 
pleasing duty of pas&ing a sleeples? night. There 
is a sentry in the Central Tower who moves like 
some planetary body qontinually up and down 
the stories. Wtien he comes near a block, the 
warder on watch there shouts and reports. " 20 
cells locUed, four warders, all right." Now, 
there is no love lost between the sentry and the 
warder. Because if the warder happens to sit 
down or place his lantern on the ground, 
the sentry is sure to report the matter and get 
him punished. So the poor warder, in his fearful 
anxiety to win the favour of the sentry sahib, 
takes recourse to so many tricks and contrivan- 
ces and gestures and attitudes that even half of 
them, had they been known to Menaka, Ram- 
bha and the other courtesans of Paradise, would 
have been quite sufiicient to annihilate the 
whole race of the Munis and Rishis. 

Each block has a large courtyard in front. 
And each courtyard ;has a workshop where the 
prisoners work during the day. On one side there 
is also a cistern about 1 cubit wide and 10 
cubits long to hold water and near by a latrine 



48 



THE BEGINNINGS OF, THE qELLULAR LIFE 

made of corrugated iron. There is a pumping- 
machine outside the jail in the garden near the 
^ea and a little farther a huge cisterp. Thjs cistern 
is fililed^ with sea-water by the pump. That water 
is. again carried by means of pipes, to the several 
smaller cisterns inside Jhe seven blocks. This wa- 
ter is meant for bathing and washing. Drinking- 
water is supplied from a pipe near the Central 
Tower. The water-carriers of each block take the 
sweet water from there and store in tins and 
buckets. 

Surrounded with pplicemen and sentries 
we descended from ;the ship and tpok our seat 
in the lighter. Theti the, steam launcl> carriied us 
towards ; the Aberdeen Jetty. We landed here 
and started in njarching ^ order up the steep 
slope— like a herd of camels — bowing down 
under both a physical and a rnen,tal wejglit anid 
dragging our fetters ^Iways on our legs.. We ar- 
rived, altijost falling prostrate at th^ huge^ate 
of the Cellular., We passed by th(^ offices and 
godowns that were on either , side ,of ,,the gate. 
We crossed the outer gate and^hen tlpe inner. 
Here the , gate-keeper counted arid, enrolled us, 



49 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

and then finaily we entered into this strange 
harem. The account wliich was thus opened in 
our names, was to be closed Only after 12 years. 
We were batiished indeed, even as Sri Kam 
Chandra, with this advantage on our side that 
we had no faithful Sita Devi to cook our fodd. 
Neither had we a docile and devoted brother 
like Lakshman nor the army of monkey-friends 
to secure us ripe plantains. Besides, Sri Ram 
Chandi-a was punished only with simple de- 
portation, whereas our fate was to undergb 
rigorous imprisonment. So if the sheer weight 
of punishrhent were takert into consideration we 
shbuld stand as far bigger avatars than Ram 
Chandra, If anybody does not admit this, I 
Would earnestly request him to pay a visit to 
Mr. Barry's kingdonl and do the oil-grinding 
and coif-poiiriding for a week Only. One week 
Would be sufficient to make him feel what an- 
other avatar felt on the cross. If he remained two 
years he would begin to grow his wisdom tooth 
anew. And if he coiild pass twelve years he would 
be disabused of all doubts as to whether by beat- 
ing an ass you can turn him into a man. At least 



50 



THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CELLULAR LWE 

I, for one, have never come across anything that 
gives as much direct knowledge as a sojourn 
in transportation. Jesting apart, as a mattpr 
of fact, suqh ordeals alone are pregnant with the 
blessings of God. 

We crossed the gate and stood in a file 
near the garden. It is here that we Had for the 
first time a full view of Mr. Barry. The goat 
does not fear the tiger half so much as the prison- 
ers feared this king of the Black Waters. Mr. 
Barry was fat and short. His ghee-fed belly put 
to shame even the paunch of a Marwari. He 
had a flat and crimson nose. The eyes were 
round and the moustache prickly, that gave him 
something like the look of a blopd-thirsty tiger. 
He came and delivered a long speech, the gist 
of which was as follows : "You see the wall 
around, do you know why it is so low ? Because 
it is impossible to escape from this place. The 
sea surrounds it for a distance of lOOO nailes. 
In the forest you do not find any other anims^^ls 
than pigs and wild cats, it is true, but, there are 
savages who are called Janglis or J^rrawallas. 
Iftjjey happen to see any man, they do not 

61 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

hesitate to pierce him right through with their 
sharp arrows. And do you see me ? My name is 
D. Barry. lam a most obedient servant to the 
simple and straightforward, but to the crooked 
I am four times as crooked. If you disobey me, 
may God help you, at least I will not, that is cer- 
tain. Remember also that God does not cdme 
within three miles of Port Blair. The red turbans 
you see there^ are warderk. And those in black 
xmiform are Petty Ofifiders. You must obey them. 
If they happen to molest you, inform me. I will 
punish therti. 

Then our fetters were broken. A halfpant, 
a kurta and and a white cap were pi'ovided for 
'each. This was the stage-dress for this Anda- 
man Play and as actors we had no other re- 
course but to caricature ourselves in that way. But 
with my lean and tall and sickly figure — the 
most anatomical of the whole lot — donnirig 
■that clownish accoutrement, I was shown' off 
most to advantage. Out of shame I began to 
pray, " M'other-Earth, hast thou forgotten that 
gesture of thine in the Treta Yuga ? Cleave thy- 
self once tnore that I may hide my shame-strick 



52 



THE BEGINNINGS OP THE CELLULAR LIFE 

en face. I am not indeed the daughter of king 

Janaka biit my 'modesty is no less imperious 

than hers." But the mother did not open her 

bosom and we proceeded in that state to take 

our bath. And there whatever modesty was still 

left to us, we had to renounce absolutely. The 

^«goW we were given to put on while bathing 

could not in the least defend any modesty. 

Thiis, when we had to change our clothes we 

were ih as helpless a condition as Draupadi 

in the assembly' of the Kauravas. We could 

only submit to our' fate. There was no help. 

We hung our heads low and somehow finished 

the bathing affdir. Then I understood that here 

there was no such thing as gentleman, not even 

perhaps such a thing as man, here were only 

convicts ! Each of us was given an iron plate 

and an iron dish, red with rust and smeared with 

oil. These cotild not be cleansed at all. With 

all our efforts we succeded only in coating them 

with a thick paste of the paint and the oil that 

clasped each other in an inseparable embrace. 

However, we rubbed our hands on the grass 

and sat dovvn to eat. The menu was a small 



53 



THE TALE OF MY KXILB 

tin can-ful of rice, a bit of Arahar dal and two 
r^tis. That even tasted nectar-like to, us, after 
we had lived on chuda and ehhola for four 
days a la mode khotta* 

When we had finished our meal, we were 
taken to Block No. 5 and locked in separate 
cells, at the interval of 3 or 4 cells. We were 
lodged in the Upper Corridor, the whole of 
which had been vacated beforehand, so that 
there might not be any communication between 
us and the ordinary convicts. Usually the ward- 
ers who kept guard were changed everyday. 
But ill our case the twelve warders that came 
to Number Five to watch over us were confined 
there. They were never transferred. Even the 
water carrier and the sweeper were not allowed 
to step outside. The warders and Petty Officers 
were specially chosen for us. They were all, 
Pathans, except one only who was a Burmese. 
Now, when they shoved us into the rooms and 
locked us in, we too laid ourselves flat at our ease 
and having nothing else to do began to count 

* The low class people of U. P. & Behar, as nick- 
named in Bengal. 

54 



THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CELLULAR LIFE 

the beams and rafters. Sometimes perhaps a 
voice in our inmost being hummed almost in< 
audibly in the plaintive words of Radha, "Dear 
sister, to whom, alas ! shall I tell my tale of 
sorrow ? " 

There were 26 cells in each corridor of 
Number Five. So in all there were 78 cells or 
rooms in the three stories. The cells were dis- 
tributed as follows in the respective Blocks : 



Serial Namber 


Number of cells Total number 


of the Block 


in each line 


1 


35 105 


2 


35 105 


3 


52 156 


^ ,. .-- 


22 66 


5 '.; , 


26 78 


6 


20 60 


7 


40 1^0 


The total i 


number of cells in the whole jail 


was 690. There is no barrack here for the pri- 


soners. There 


are only cells and hence it is 


called the Cellular Jail. 


The Superinteftdent of thd Jail, Captain 



55 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE i 

Murray, came at about 1 or 2 o'clock in theafter- 
nooiii iHe stopped for a while in front of each 
of our closed cells and took a preliminary survey 
of us. He was clean-shaved, shortrstatuced, 
blue-eyed and, it appeared to me, infinitely cun- 
ning. Sometime in the meanwhile a blacksmith 
had come and suspended to our necks what may 
be compared to the bell of a bullock. In all the 
prisons, here as elsewhere, the convicts imme- 
diately on their entrance lose their names and 
are given numbers instead., Each has to carry a 
wooden piece, 3 inches long, 2 inches broad and 
1 inch thick on which his number, the section 
undei- which he is convicted, the date of convic- 
tion and the term of sentence are written. It 
is called the neck-ticket and there are^ three 
kinds, the rectangular, the circular and the tri- 
angular. Prisoners under section 302 (that is to 
say, murder) get the first variety. Dacoits and 
political prisoners get the second variety. And 
those who attempt to escape irom Port Blair or 
are' caught again after escaping get the third 
variety. The ticket is suspended to an iron ring 
put round the neck. In the prisons of Madras, 



56 



THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CELLULAR LIFE 

the number is carved in tin and attached to the 
kufta, near the breast like a decent brooch ; but 
in Port Blair one has to mimic the bullocks. 

At four in the afternoon we were unlocked 
and taken to the yard^ We bathed, we washed 
and arranged our respective plates and dishes on 
the ground and came back again into our cells, 
The band of cooks then appeared and served 
rice, dal and rati. We came out after they had 
left and sat down to eat. Ordinary prisoners after 
finishing their day's work, bathe and sit down in 
file and get themselves served. But we had no 
such liberty. It was the first Bomb case in the 
Andamans and we were the first batch of Anar- 
chists there. We were dreaded more than a 
pack of wild wolves. So there was so much 
strictness about us, so much flourishing of 
lock-and-keys and rules and regulations. But 
nobody took account of how much we too on 
our side were shaking with fear, how much we 
too were anxious to save our lives. At that time 
our position as regards each other — we on the 
one hand and the officers of the Jail on the 
other — was most funny. They looked upon us 

67 



THE TALE OE MY EXILE 

with fear and apprehension, we too remember-. 
ing the motto that trust should not be placed in 
royal personages harboured the same feeling 
towards them. Again they were very busy to 
conceal their feelings in order to keep their pres- 
tige. They bluffed and bullied, put on a reck- 
less, devil-me-care attitude in the exterior. Like- 
wise we too were intent upon upholding the 
name of patriot and sought self-gratification 
by delivei-ing long speeches to Ihem in season 
and out of season. From the Jailor down to the 
smallest peon, everybody brandished law before 
our nose at every step, showed red and wrathful 
eyes, even tried to chase us, but all that was due 
to the instinct of sheer self-preservation. For 
they argued in their minds, " The fellows are 
rogues and ruffians, suppose they bring about 
some mischief." We also flared out in one mo- 
ment and in the next turned as meek as lambs. 
That too was because we had no other way out. 
For one did not know, whether if, in this land of 
lawlessness, we gave up even hissing ( along with 
biting) — as the saying goes — it would be pos- 
sible at all to keep body and soul together. 



58 



THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CELLULAR LIFE 

The next morning we came out and wash- 
ed our faces and then had for the first time > the 
darshan of gariji, otherwi$e called kanjii It 
means boiled rice churned in water — one may 
say, a sort of rice-porridge. We were given each 
a dabbu full of this dainty. Dabbu is a kind of 
primitive spoon, made of a broken half coconut 
shell with a cane-handle fixed to it. Now, the 
Ganji was saltless and therefore tasteless. Each 
prisoner was allowed only 1 dram of salt per 
day and, this being required for the dal and the 
vegetable, the Ganji had necessarily to go with- 
out salt. However, we had to swallow the thing 
with the utmost perseverance, in spite of its 
tastelessness. The same thing was called Lapsi 
in the Alipur Jail, but there it had some taste, 
as it was prepared sometimes with molasses and 
sometimes with dal. We had been shut up 7 
days in quarantine ; but now came the turn 
of real medical examination in the Hospital. 
And this was to depide the fate of the prisoners. 
Mr. Murray examined each and wrote down on 
the Jail History sheet whether he was fit for 
hard or light labour, such as, " good physique 

59 



THE TALE OF MV EXILE 

fit for hard labour," or " Poor physique, fit for 
light labour ". Then the Jailor M. Barry was to 
go through these remarks and distribute work 
to each. Between the examination and the dis- 
tribution of work we passed seven days in mak- ■ 
ing ropes out of coir. 

One batch of prisoners had to soak the 
coir in water, pound it and get fibres out of it. 
From these fibres ropes were made by another 
batch, viz, those who were given light labpur. 
Each had to turn out 3 lbs weight of ropes. 

We had never done rope-making or coir- 
pounding in our life. Even perhaps our an- 
cestors to the fourteenth generation had never 
heard the names of such things. And yet we 
did the thing. On the first day all of us were 
given rope-making. A bundle of coir was thrown 
in front of each of the closed cells with the 
command, " Rassi Batto ", that is to say, pre- 
pare ropes like a dear good boy. We opened 
our bundles, handled them a little and finally 
sat down in despair. To make ropes out of that ? 
Was it possible ? There were the four warders 
there. They came as private tutors to teach us 



60 



THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CELLULAR LIFE 

this dreadful work. Now let rtie repeat the les- 
son to my readers. First twist the fibres into 
wicks by rubbing them upon the ground with 
the palm of both the hands. When in this way 
there is a huge pile of wicks, put it oh one side. 
Then take out two wicks. Hold one end of both 
wicks firmly on the ground together with your toe 
and then press the other ends between your 
palms. Use your firigers skilfully and twist the 
two togethier, till they make a small rope. Then 
repeat the process by joining other twrt bits 
of wiek to the two ends and twist again. And 
so on. As the rope becomes longer and longer, 
you throw it behind you and hold the last joint 
under the toe and join again another wick and 
twisl. This is called rope-making. I now tell it 
in words and this is not so difficult. But to do 
the thing actually is such a Herculean task in 
the beginning that only those who have under- 
gone the trial know what it is. However, this 
was our maiden effort and what wonderful ropes 
we made, narrow at one place, thick at another, 
and all covered with bristling fibres ! Not to 
speak of the honorable Government, we our- 

61 



THE TALE OK MY liXILK 

selves burst out into laughter on beholding our 
own achievement. 

Later on we found that once the thing is 
practised, the fingers move like a machine and 
a thin and soft string of rope comes out auto- 
matically, as it were, and is heaped behind. It 
is not easy to imagine how familiarity makes a 
thing as easy and pleasant as unfamiliarity 
makes it difficult and irksome. On that day, 
some of us could do ropes 5 cubits long, others 
did 10 cubits, and yet others again who did even 
more than that. Upen alone succeeded in achiev- 
ing something like a lady's thick plait of hair, 
about 1 cubit and a half or at the most 2 cubits 
long. None could beat Upen on that day ! Such 
a natural gift in workmanship as his was consi- 
dered by all as a rarity ! However, he was a 
little mortified when he found that I did as a 
matter of fact the longest rope. He said, '' You 
must have worked then secretly at home ", 
as if, I, a scion of the House of Ghoses, was no 
better than a dom (rope-maker, sweeper etc. by 
caste). The insinuation set fire to all the blood 
in my veins I But we were in the Blessed Land 



62 



THE REIGN OF KHOYEDAD KHAN 

of Prison and I could only gnash my teeth and 
pocket the insult ! , 



CHAPTER V. 

THE REIGN OF KHOYEDAD KHAN 
IN NUMBER FIVE. 

■\ !\ 7'E remained ten of us together in Num- 
" " ber Five, closely guarded for about 
six months. A batch of Madrasee prisoners had 
also come with us at the same time when we 
left Quarantine after a detention of seven 
days. They too, for want of room, were locked 
up in Number Five and prepared ropes in our 
company. Of them Nagappa and Chinnappa were 
our particular friends. Nagappa was a barber 
by caste and profession. Chinnappa was the 
youngest of the lot. He was quite a harmless 
little boy, liked very much by every one of us. 
All these Madrasees helped us in rope-making 
and made easy for us what was an almost im- 
possible task. They were released after six 

63 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

months. Chinnappa then became independent 
and self-supporting and took service under the 
Hospital Assistant. Nagappa was soon to be 
called to the other world. 

Soon after this batch of Madrasees were 
let off and sent outside in the settlement, an- 
other Burmese consignment, convicted under 
Sec. 121, came and replaced them in No. 5. 
Sec. 121 means treason. The Fungis or the 
priests of the Burmese have the habit of setting 
up every now and then a false king (Thib*w) 
and exciting the mob to attack and ransack 
police stations. This was also the crime of the 
new batch who were made almost our bed com- 
panions. Indeed, it was the first time that we saw 
these white-skinned people with an almost fe- 
minine appearance, having neither beard nor 
moustache, but not without the ulki on the for- 
ehead ( which the gentler sex only put on in our 
parts). Some of them happened to know Hindi. 
However, now we became their masters in rope- 
making, and they our disciples. Many of them 
had to do coir-pounding also. And in both of 
these arts we had the supreme satisfaction of pos- 



THE REHJN OF KHOYEDAD KHAN 

ing as Gurus to, a band of ignorant neophytes. 
Helpless and easily susceptible to gratefulness, 
they too became great Bhaktas to us. By this 
time we had somehow got ourselves accustome;d 
to the mellifluous jawbreaking words of the 
Mj^drasees, such , as "Ayia Swami", "Ingeva", 
"Rundu Rundu Po " and so on ; but now we had 
again to face bravely this novel nasal language 
of the Burmese. It took us some time before 
we could pick up even a few common phrases 
that were absolutely necessary and there we 
stopped. 

When we had passed about six months in 
this way, Captain Murray left for England on 
two years leave. We learnt that he was going 
in search of a goddess to fill the emptiness of 
his hearth and home. We were very comfor- 
table while he was in the An damans. We were 
never given any work more difficult than coir- 
pounding. We found the rigours of a lonely and 
desolate life somewhat softened when he used 
to come and talk to us smilingly and pleasantly. 
Compared to the blusterings of Mr. Barry, his 
was a mere mild rebuke. However whatever 



65 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

suffering we had to undergo was perhaps entirely 
due to our destiny. No individual person coiiid 
be held responsible for that. All credit shbiild 
be given to the Jail Regulations only and per- 
haps to a wilful God. '^' "' " ' '' 

The orders of the Jailor were that the 
Bomb Prisoners sHoiild not |3e allowed to talk 
to one another. So we were kept separate at' all 
times, ih all places and in every possible way. 
But it was not a very easy task to keep separate 
lO people who lived and moved in such a nar- 
row place as Number Five. But there appeared 
a Petty Officer who sought to accomplish the 
miracle. He was KhoyedacJ Khan, a Pathan, by 
race. We ten were all Hindus. There was an 
apprehension that Hindu guards might sympa- 
thise and fraternise with us. Therefore all the 
masters of our fate, the Petty Officers and war- 
ders, were chosen from among the Mahomedaris, 
cither Hindusthani, Pupjabi or Pathan. A Pa- 
than is what we know ordinarily as a kabuli fruit- 
seller. But in Port Blair they form the Myrmi- 
dons of kin^ Yaraa. Ask them to capture' a 
man, they will bring his head. Lazy and slothful 



66 

■1 



THE REIGN OF KHOYEDAD KHAN 

a^d corrupt t|]e,mselves, they are violently over- 
zealous in ex|[pcting work from other people. 

Amopig t^e Path^na, Khoyed^d was the king 
of Patha,ns. ,Tfic very sight of,, him made one 
ill — dw^rfi^h ^nd . hpir^, wi|h , thick-set nepk, 
dark and bushy ^vhiskersJ, large and irregular 
teeth, joined eye-brows, up-tijted nose, temper 
always at boiling point and a baton in his hand. 
T^ese were npj; his only endowments; he was, 
above all, a tqrribl^ champion of Law and Or- 
der. None CQul^ move about in his dominion 
bu;t.ifi cpuples. U by chance while marching in 
file you fell a jstep, behind your pther half, the 
upraised cudgel flf tl;e lynxrcyed khan was ready 
th^re to fall upon you. Youh^d no other alter- 
native but, forthwith to acknpwledgeyour guilt 
with tht; utmost contrition, " yes sir, pardon, me, 
sir," and make haste tp^JiH into line with your 
companion. In the other , !^umbers, you were 
shown in pairs only \yhen the Superintendent 
or, the Jailor came and at the time of the evening 
parade, but in Number Five where Khoyedad 
lorded it oyer you, you had to be always in pairs. 

Matters did not end with that " Love's phi- 



67 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

losophy " only. You had to act like marionettes 
at every step. At the Word of command "khada 
hojao" (stand up), you must stand stock-still. 
At the next order " kapda utaro " ( take off your 
clothes ) you must throw off j^our clothes and 
have only a lenguii. Attd again when the order 
comes "pant leo" ( take water ) you must take 
water in your cups and pour on your heads. 
Thkt was the bathing ceremony. The latrine- 
going ceremony was also conducted in the same 
style. You had to sit in couples in a row facing 
the latrine and then, as the ordfer sounded, to 
enter it in batches of 8 or 10. In the meanwhile 
you had to practise self-control. But perhaps the 
most intricate ceremony was the evening parade. 
You sat first of all in pairs. Then at the interval 
of two pairs of the Bombers there were placed 
two or three pairs of Burmese or Madrasee con- 
victs. Besides, you must be paired also with 
either a Burmese or a Madrasee. But even so 
placed, we managed to evade the notice of the 
khan and shyly, like a newly married bride, whis- 
per to each other. 

When it was time for Mr. Barry to start 



68 



* THE REIGN OF KHOYEDAD KHAN 

from his office for Jail-inspection there arose 
everywhere a stir and commotion. The con- 
victs would sit up, full of anxiety and trepidation, 
in their respective places and try to put on the 
most innocent and lamb-like look. The warders 
and even the Petty Officer stood breathless, ready 
to lift up fheir hands in salute. Mr. Barry came 
every evening to lock up the wards and had a 
round in the Central Tower. As he stood in front 
of each ward, it greietfed him with the shout 
" sarcar": All the prisoners jumped up and 
stood at attention and the warders and the 
Petty Officer rendered a right military salute. 
It was a perfect Kaisarian affair. Now, if the 
whole lot stood up simultaneously, the thing 
passed smoothly and all could sit down happily 
on receiving the order, " baith jao " (sit down). 
But if any or some happened to break the 
simultaneity, by standing up a little after the 
others, then woe unto the day ! The orders re- 
sounded " Sarcar ", " Baith jao " again and yet 
again and we had to repeat the exercises till we 
almost fainted. I have never heard the roar of 
a Titan or a Demon, but however that may be, 



69 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

I am perfectly sure that it , is simply the cooing 
of a doye in comparison with Mi;. Barry's ter- 
rjljie cry. If anybody doulJts my. assertion, 
I would only wish that he had committed a 
political decoity and gone to Port Blaiir to hear 
the thundering of that mighty heroj w^ile he 
was hale and hearty. But now it is top late. It 
is difficult to describe the thing. I can only say 
in the words of the Rishi that " some he^r, it and 
wonder, others hear it and do not comprehend." 
It must not be concluded from this, however, 
that I say anything in disparagement of Mr. 
Barry. Murderers, decoits, ruffians and rogues 
from all the quarters of India collect together 
in the hundreds of prisons that are spread over 
the country. And the pick of that company f^pd 
asylum in Port Blair. So a diamopd like Mr. 
Bar^y was a,b^solutely necessary to cut such dia- 
monds. If, the present prison-^ystpni; is, cpnti- 
pue^ arid, if the, prisoners are to be kept; under 
9pntrol by threats and severities, then there is 
no (Other, way but to have recpurse tp, the, prin- 
ciple jpf cpuntej-actipg poison by pqison, Butgs 
for us poor people, the antidote as incarnated 



70 



THE REIGN OF KHOYEDAD KHAN 

in Mr. Barry was a little too strong. No doubt 
we played at throwing bombs, but was't^at any 
reason that we should be given over to living 
Death itself ? 

However, Mr. Barry was sufferable. But 
Khoyedad in addition was too much. Life be- 
came simply miserable. In the afternoon our 
persons as well as clothes were searched and^ a 
bell was rung" three times to indicate the time 
of the ceremony. In other wards with the ring- 
ing of the bell, the prisoners had to stand up as 
soon as the order khara ho jao was given and 
lay' Dy their clothes for search. With the order 
uthaieo they took up the clothes" ; and they sat 
down when ordered baith jao. But the system- 
loving Khoyedad improved upon that business 
with a thousand intricacies. The first orcler was 
khara ho jao, the next was sidha ek line se khara 
ho jao (stand up in a straight line ), then kapra 
uiaro { remove cloths ), then hanth me rakho 
(hold in your hands), then kadam uthao (hold 
one leg up ) and finally rakh deo ( place on the 
grqund). At the fiist order we stood up. At thfc 
second, we approached each other and formed 

n 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

a line. At the third, we took off our kurtas and 
caps. At the fourth we held out our hands. At 
the fifth we stood on one leg, as if about to dance. 
And at the sixth we put the other leg forward 
and placeci the clothes on the ground. If the 
whole thing was gone through in perfect order 
then the khan sahib beamed with delight — his 
whole forest of whiskers radiant with the glow 
of his row of crooked teeth — and cried out in 
joy "Bravo, heroes". We too, on our side, out 
of the dire necessity of self-protection, parted 
pur lips and grinned smilingly in thankfulness 
hoping by that to secure his favour. Thus wc 
had to execute ail sorts of orders and then 
sit down and wait feagerly for the final bell when 
we would go back to our respective stables, free 
at last, for the night, from the too loving clutches 
of the khan ! 

One could hardly ever make a rope to the 
satisfaction of the Sahib. He would take up the 
rope in his hands and say, " Too thick. Aren't 
you ashamed of it ?" Or when he examined a coir 
he would turn up his nose and remark, "It is 
not clean ; go wash and dry." There was no- 



72 



THE REIGN OF KHOYEDAD KHAN 

thing in the world we were not prepared to do 
ir^ order to please the Khan Sahib. But even he 
found his match in Mr. Barry. When the latter 
proceeded towards the jail, our Khan would 
begin to murmur the sacred name, " Bismillah." 
He was reputed a Mullah and Namaji ( one who 
regularly did the prayers) among the prisoners. 
We extolled his religious fervour and expressed 
our ambition to becomie one day Mussalmans. 
We appreciated his noble heart and his mar- 
vellous power of ruling men. The Khan, as 
he heard us, would go almost into an extatic 
trance. I and Abinash were in the convalescent 
gang and every one who was put in this list got 
12 oz. of milk. But I secretly offered the Khan 
from time to time the milk allotted to me. He 
would at first hesitate a moment or two and 
then drink it off with evident delight. He would 
then caress his beard, smack his lips and say, 
" lah Bismillah ! what a wonderful thing God 
has created ! " It is needless to say tliat this 
milk was a bribe — an offering to appease the 
wrath of this camel-eating Kabuli Durvasa. 

Mr. Barry was stern and grim and yet 



73 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

kindly to us. Every morning when he went his 
rounds and every evening at the lock-up time, 
he came sauntering along with a Burma cheroot 
in his mouth and a stick in his arm and had a 
few minutes talk one by one with all of us. He 
understood and we too understood that because 
of this favour he showed us, even the Petty 
Officers and the warders changed their attitude. 
The sahib talked and joked on equal terms with 
us, so we must be somebody ! It was owing to 
this prestige of ours that we escaped mfach in- 
decent insult and abuse and beating. But as for 
the common convicts these things were their 
natural and inalienable rights. We only looked 
from a distance and trembled at the amount of 
chastisement that the poor people had to quietly 
digest. With the Jailor and the "superdont" we 
could talk English continuously " like water " 
and so our little masters were filled with respect 
for us, and did not readily lift their weapons to 
strike us. 

Mr. Barry had a daughter, named Catherine. 
His wife was born lame, one of her legs being 
shorter than the other. He used to bring them 



74 



THE REIGN OFKHOYEDAD KHAN 

with him now and then and show them over the 
Cellular Zoo with all the queer animals like us 
that were in it. We then tried to put on the best 
appearance and stand smilingly beforfe the ladies 
in that clownish apparel of ours. Mr. Barry per- 
haps believed in his innocence that he was really 
doing us a great favour. We only knew the 
shame of it all ! 

Golam Rasul was at that time the munshi 
who had to make a report of the work turned 
out by each convict. He was another wonderful 
creation of God's — a black, sickly, ugly, long- 
toothed and most obedient and faithful dog of 
the Sahib. He never did the nasty business of 
bathing aad the smell that his body emitted 
made it ithpossible for anybody to stand near 
him. When he first came into the Jail, the Bara 
Sahib ohe day learnt the thing and ordered 4 
or 5 sweepers to give him a bath. Once the order 
was passed, there was no escape from it. So they 
got hold of him and threw him into a cistern. 
He was rubbed arid cleaned with Coconut 
fibres and such a bath he had that it almost cost 
him his life. This affair became a perennial joke 

75 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

with the prisoners whenever they wanted to 
tease and play with him. Rasul was incompa- 
rable in grimacing and gnashing his teeth. One 
day Upen was found fault with, because of his 
bad rope-making and the reprimand accom- 
panied by necessary ( and perhaps unnecessary) 
facial gestures that he got then made him an 
eternal enemy of Rasul. This creature caused 
numberless people to be punished. There were 
many outside the prison in the several stations, 
who yet remembered how they had been tor- 
tured with handcuffs and fetters at his instance 
and who were still lying in wait just to "see" him 
when he came out dismissed. But the dearest 
favourite of Mr. Barry was cunning enough and 
did not come out. He was a warder at first, 
then became Petty Officer , and then Tindal ; 
and finally as Jamadar he still continued his 
overlordship within the Jail itself. 

With Khoyedad, Golam Rasul and Mr. 
Barry — this holy Trinity over our head we 
passed very happily indeed our days ! W|e passed 
about a year in this way in Number Five. 
In the meanwhile Hemda, Indu and some 



76 



THE REIGN OF KHOYEDAD KHAN 

others had once to take up the sickle and cut 
the grass of the yard. My Babu readers might 
shudder at the idea of a gentleman cutting grass ; 
but as a matter of fact the work of a gardener, 
a sweeper or even a scavenger was considered 
as a high privilege in this kingdom of topsy 
turvydom. We have seen many kayasthas,chhatris 
and even Brahmins petitioning for the work'of 
a scavenger, out of the dread of oil-grinding. -The 
people who were given those works could, at 
least, move about freely. Also the work being 
light and finished quickly, they enjoyed complete 
repose for the rest of the day. So it must be ad- 
mitted that Mr. Murray was unusually kind in 
putting a sickle in the hands of the Bomb pri- 
soners and letting them free in the yard. Over 
and above that, his orders were that the grass 
was to be cut only when there was no rain or 
sun. So most of the time we enjoyed perfect 
leisure and squatted at ease on the veranda of 
the timber workshop. Only if a passing cloud 
came and covered the sun for some time we 
would go out to our work. There was to be 
absolute rest also during the rains. And in the 



77 



THE TALE OP MY EXILE 

Andamans it was either rainy or sultry for most 
of the time the whole year round. 



CHAPTER VI* 

THE STBIKE 

A S soon as we reached the prison of the 
-^^ Black Waters, those of us who were 
Brahmins were deprived of their sacred thread. 
There is no rule to this effect in the prisons in 
India, but in the Andamans that was the prac- 
tice. The prison is like the holy place of Jaggan- 
nath. Here all caste distinctions are clean wiped 
out. None, however, dares to touch the beard 
of the- Mussalman or the hair of the Sikh. But 
everybody is only too prompt to take away the 
thread of the Brahmin. The reason is, of course, 
that the Mussalman and the Sikh are fire-eaters, 
while the Brahmin is a meek lamb. However, 
we cast off that impotent weapon of Brahmin- 
hood and lost ourselves in the general crowd. 

* This, the following two chapters and the 11th form 
ITpen's story. 

78 



THE STRIKE 

The most strange thing was that not a single 
Brahmin raised any objection. Those who are 
accustomed to take beating passively are pre- 
cisely the persons whom every one feels an 
itching to beat. Long after, a Panjabi Brahmin, 
by name Rama Raksha, protested in the mat- 
ter. He told the jailor that his religion for- 
bade him to take food or water unless he had 
the sacred thread. So he could neither eat nor 
drink if the thread was taken off. He had 
travelled over China, Siam, Japan and did not 
seem to have any orthodoxy about caste. But 
here he fought for a principle. But who would 
care to listen to the weak? His thread was 
taken away, as a matter of course and he too stop- 
ped eating. When he had fasted for four days 
without even taking a drop of water, he was forced 
to take in milk by means of the stomach pump. 

A strike movement was then brewing in the 
priaan. Ram Raksha was taken up in it and work- 
ed himself up to the pitch of quarrelling with the 
authorities. He had been physically in a broken 
down condition before he came to the Black 
Waters from a Burma prison. Now symptoms 



79 



THE TALE OV MY EXILE 

of Phthisis appeared. He was removed to the 
Phthisis ward and soon had the good fortune of 
escaping the tortures of prison-Hfe by escaping 
those of earthly Hfe altogether. 

However, we had not the courage to find re- 
lief by death. Not only we did not die, but we re- 
solved to live and live upon prison food. It was 
not a less creditable thing to do even that. The 
Rangoon rice and the thick and tough rotis, one 
could somehow suffer; but it would be the 
rarest thing to find a single Bhadrolog boy even 
in these days of famine who would not shed 
tears over the wonderful pjeparation of kachu 
and unskinned green plantain and all sorts of 
roots and stalks and leaves boiled together with 
sand and gravel and excretions of mice. We 
had to pass the four days of our voyage mun- 
ching citana and chuda ; and so it was with glee 
that we devoured even that dish. 

Even before we entered the prison, the jailor 
had given us to understand that we were not 
permitted to talk to each other or to sit together 
and that we must be prepared to take the conse- 
quences of any breach of that rule. 

80 



THE STRIKE 

Now about our work and duties. The Anda- 
mans produce coconuts in abundance and all 
that is government property. So the chief 
business there is centred round that article. To 
pound the coir and extract fibres out of it, to 
prepare again ropes out of those fibres, to grind 
dry coconut and also mustard in the machine 
and bring out oil, to make bulbs for hooka from 
the shells — these formed the principal items of 
work for the prisoners, as has already been said 
before. Besides, there was a cane workshop 
where small boys only were made to work. 

The most difficult work was coir-pounding 
and oil-grinding. Barindra and Abinash were 
invalids amongst us and so were given rope- 
making ; all the rest had to do the coir-pound- 
ing. We got up early in the morning, satisfied 
the demands of nature and, swallowing the 
kanji, tucked up our lenguti and sat down to 
business. Each one was given the dry husk of 
twenty coconuts. The husk had first to be placed 
on a piece of wood and then to be beaten 
with a wooden hammer till it became soft. 
Then the outer skin had to be removed. Then it 



81 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

was dipped in water and . moistened and then 
again one had to pound it. By sheer pounding 
all the husk inside dropped off, only the fibres 
remaining. These fibres had then to be dried in 
the sun and cleaned. Each one was expected, to 
prepare daily a roll of "such fibres weighing one 
seer. ,, 

On the first day, a great deal of time was lost 
simply to understand the whole affair. Then 
when we'began the thing, we found before long 
our hands all bruised and blotched. With all my 
efforts, the whole amount of work I turned out 
in the end was only quarter of a seer. At three 
o'clock I went, quaking in all my limbs, like a 
victim before the altar, to exhibit my work. 
Weil, I got such an exhibition of teeth in 
return that I was simply petrified. I had never 
the good habit of silently pocketing an insult. 
To day 1 felt almost suffocated when I pictured 
in my mind that I would have to pass long 
years in this enemy-land with only hard labour 
and continual abuse as my lot. And what sort 
of abuse it was ! I read somewhere in a 
novel by our Sarat Chandra that Hindusthani 



THE STRIDE 

surpasses all otherlanguages by its possession of 
quite the richest vocabulary of abuse. I .would en- 
treat him to come once to Port Blair and study 
Philology there. A veritable well of nectar have 
the Hindusthani, the Pathan and the Beluchi ope- 
ned there in close conjunction with each other ! 
Whoever has tasted of it, would find any other 
human speech quite insipid. Even the Hadis and 
Bagdis of our country, if they cultivate it during 
scjven lives, would not be able adequately to mas- 
ter that tongue. I could 'never have imagined that 
the horrid admitted of such a multiple variety. 
However that may be, we expiated our daily 
sins in thus pounding the coir, eating the 
curry of leaves and twigs, and swallowing 
insults. But the smaller gods that ruled our 
destiny made life almost unbearable. As the 
prisons at home have, officers called Mate and 
Black Turban, so the , prison of the Black 
Waters -has its Warder, Petty Officer, Tindfll and 
Jamadar. It is the convicts who attain to these 
dignities after passing some 6 or 7 years in 
prison. In the Andamans it is they who are in 
charge of everything and have the authority. 

as 



THE tALE OP MY EXILE 

They are the bodyguards of the supreme lord, 
the Jailor. And what perfect adepts they are in 
the art of beating and abusing ! " Ramlal sits a 
little crosswise in the file, give him two blows 
on the neck, " "Muslapha did not get up im- 
mediately he was told to, so pull off his mous- 
tache ", " Bakaulla is late in coming from the 
latrine, apply the baton and unloose the skin of 
his posterior " — such were the beautiful proceed- 
ings by which they maintained discipline in the 
prison. * 

The 'convicts very often practised a hole in 
the throat and hid there bits of coins. The pur- 
pose of all these tortures was to extract a share 
of that money. As for us we had absolutely 
nothing. What were we to do ? Barindra was 
weak and sickly and was given from the hospi- 
tal 12 oz. of milk every day. In order to escape 
trouble he had to offer that milk on the altar of 
the stomach of our Petty Officer, Khoyedad 
Mian. Khoyedad was a most devout personage, 
a perfect servant of God. As Barin has already 
said, that wonderful devotee would pour the 
milk into his month fringed with its clipped 



84 



tHE STRIKK 

moustache and exclaim smacking his Hps all the 
while, " The prophat be praised ! what a marvel- 
lous thing God has created ! " 

But the most regrettable part of the whole 
affair was that there was no remedy for these 
oppressions. For who would bear witness 
against the guards and court danger ? Besides, 
if you could not prove your charge there was 
the fear of your being punished in return for 
instituting a false case. Life is not possible 
where the protectors themselves are the de- 
vourers. 

We had passed in this way some 6 or 7 
months when a batch of political prisoners 
arrived from Nasik, Khulna and Allahabad. We 
thus numberd 20 or 12 in all. 

About this time a veritable comet arose in 
the heavens of our destiny in the person of a 
new Superintendent. Our fate was sealed. Im- 
mediately after his coming he ordered some of 
us to be engaged in oil-grinding. The oil ma- 
■■ chine to which Ullaskar was yoked was some- 
thing like what our oil-men have in our country. 



85 



THE TALE OK MY EXILE 

And the machines at which Hemchandra, Sud- 
hir, Indu and the rest were employed were 
worked by the hand. Each had to turn out per 
day either 10 lbs. of mustard oil or 30 lbs. of 
coconut oil. Even robust and stalwart fellows 
get prostrated in turning an oil mill. It 
passes words to describe what became of 
people like us. Two Pathan Petty Officers were 
the supreme authority in that part of the jail 
where oil was ground. As soon as we entered 
the region, one of them held his fist upon our 
nose and explained with vehement emphasis 
that our nose would be flattened out with blows, 
if we did not work properly. We had to run up 
to the third story, each with a 50 lb. sack of co- 
conuts on the back and a bucket in the hand and 
start immediately the work. It was not work, it 
was a regular wrestling. Within 10 minutes, our 
breathing became difficult, our tongues got par- 
ched. In an hour, all the limbs were almost 
paralysed. We cursed the superintendent m our 
wrath, but all that was useless. Omce I thought 
that I would find relief if I could only weep at 
the top of my voice. But I felt ashamed to 



86 



THE STRIKf 

do even thati When we got down at 10 o'clock 
to take our meal, we saw that our hands were 
all bruised, our brains reeled, the whole world 
danced before our eyes. The first object that 
attracted my attention was Hemchandfa sitting 
quiet in a corner. I asked him, "How do you 
find it, brother ? " He stretched out both his 
hands and said, " Like unto the lignified deity." 
But whether his hands became lignified or 
petrified, I have never seen his strength of mind 
diminished even by so little. There was none 
equal to Hamchandra for bearing pain and suf- 
fering with a smiling face, for calmly determin- 
ing the future in the very thick of terrible 
struggle and difficulty. When some of us were 
so much overwhelmed with suffering that they 
were up to doing anything, it was he who 
infused into them his calm strength of mind and 
kept them back. 

It was beyond the capacity of any of us, 
excepting 2 or 3, to grind 30 lbs, of oil by him- 
self. So very often the other convicts secretly 
lent their aid. 

We thus passed about a month in turning 



87 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

the oil-mill during the day and lying flat on 
our beds dead-tired during the night. 

After that period, the first batch was reliev- 
ed and the second batch was called to do their 
turn. Abinash was extremely weak and was in 
danger of getting tuberculosis. So the former 
Superintendent had given him remission from 
all heavy work. But the new Superintendent 
sent him to the oil-mill, without even examining 
whether he was capable of it or not. Sriman 
Nandagopal, editor of the "Swaraj " of Allaba- 
had, was also put to the same work. 

Nandagopal was a Panjabi kshatriya, tall 
in stature and handsome in appearance. He 
created a scene when taken to the oil mill. At 
the very outset he said point-blank, " It will 
not suit me to turn the mill so quickly as all 
that". So the machine moved as slowly as pos- 
sible. Consequently, not even a third of the 
required amount was done before 10 o'clock. 
At that hour the ordinary convicts came down, 
finished their meal in 5 or 6 minutes and then 
ran up again to continue the work. According 
to the rules, the time between .10 and 12 was 



88 



THE STRIKE 

meant for dinner and rest, but as a matter of 
fact the prisoners dared not take rest, lest their 
day's work should remain undone. They wanted 
to finish their jobs quickly and then rest with a 
traliquil heart. But Nandagopal had no such 
fear. The Petty Officer came and ordered him 
to finish his meal quickly. Nandagopal smiled 
a little and began to explain the theories of 
hygiene, that eating quickly is of great danger 
to the stomach and that since he had to remain 
as a guest of the Sarcar for ten years, he could 
on no account consent to spoil his health and 
thus bring the Sarcar to ill-repute. The matter 
was reported to the Jailor, who came andsaw 
NandagopAl slowly manipulating his food and 
leisurely chewing and swallowing each morsel, 
engaging in the operation each and every one 
of his 32 teeth. The Jailor fumed and raged and 
gave him to understand that he would be horse- 
whipped if the work was not done in due time, 
Nandagopal smiled again sweetly and very po- 
litely repeated the hygienic lesson. Moreover, 
he said, it was the Govt, that had fixed the 
hours between 10 and 12 for rest and he would 



89 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

be no party to any breach of that rule. Not only 
that, he would take particular care that the Jailor 
also did not break that rule. The entire being 
of the Jailor welled up in gratitude ! He shot up 
in fury, but thought better of it and retreated 
with a good grace. Nandagopal took his own time 
to finish his meal and retired to his cell. The 
nonplussed Petty Officer thought that now the 
work would be commenced. But, lo, the incor- 
rigible Nandagopal took up a blanket, spread it 
on the floor and lay down. Showers of abuse did 
not in any way disturb his siesta. As regards 
passive resistance, he was even a Guru to Ma- 
hatma Gandhi. He got up, however, at 12 and 
turned the mill for an hour. When he saw that 
the oil in the bucket had came up to 15 lbs, 
he tied up all the rest of the coconuts in the 
sack and sat down quietly. Only half the 
work was done, who would now do the rest ? 
Nandagopal said, " Whoever likes let him do it. 
I am not a bullock certainly that I should turn 
the mill the whole day. The ration I get per 
day is not worth even one anna and a half, then 
how should 1 grind 30lbs. of oil ?" 



90 



THE STRIKK 

A tremendous hubbub arose among the 
authorities. There was a great deal of shout- 
ing and threatening. But Nandagopal was as 
stolid anS tranquil as the Immutable Brahman. 
The Superintendent saw that there was no hope 
of getting 30 lbs. of oil out of Nandagopal, so 
he sent the culprit to be shut up in the cell "till 
further orders". 

In the meanwhile Abinash began to break 
down with working at a mill that was too big for 
him. After 10 he felt himself too much exhaust- 
ed to take up the job again. Indu was the 
strongest among us. It was he who with the 
assent of the other prisoners came to the help 
of Abinash and somehow atoned for the sins of 
the latter. 

Still another month passed. In between 
the Jailor came to a compromise with Nanda- 
gopal. He said that if Nandagopal did full 
work for four days, then he would be entirely 
released from the mill. Nandagopal agreed. He 
took the help of others and submitted duly the 
required amount of work and got free for that 
time. 



91 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

But he could not long enjoy the freedom. 
A few days afterwards, he was again put to a 
big mill &nd again he refused to work. The con- 
sequences were — fetters and confinement. A ge- 
neral order was passed that everybody should 
grind oil for three days. Thus over and above the 
prospect of an indefinite term of imprisonment 
was added this daily terror of toiling at the mill. 
Everybody understood that unless some sort 
of regular arrangement was made as regards our 
work, we would have to leave our bodies in Port 
Blair itself. Punishment was, of course, always 
there in store for us, but why should we punish 
ourselves ? So many of us refused this time to 
work at the mill. Thus the strike began. 

The authorities also were not to be behind- 
hand. They also took rigorous measures. The 
whole prison assumed an air of merry festi- 
vity 1 Punishment was followed by punish- 
ment. The first instalment that was doled out 
to us was Kanji dish for four days along 
with bar fetters and handcuffs for 7 days. This 
delicious dish was nothing but powdered grains 
of rice boiled in water. It was this that was 



92 



THE STRIKE 

measured out to us twice daily, one lb. each 
time. And, of course, special precautions were 
taken that nobody should get anything else in 
any illicit way. This penal diet, according to jail 
regulations, was not to be given for more than 
4 days. But whether the authorities were too 
kind to us or whatever the reason might be, 
Ullaskar, Nandagopal and Hotilal were made to 
live on that diet for 12 or 13 days. Nandagopal 
complained about the matter to the Hon'ble 
Sir Reginald Craddock when the latter visited 
Port Blair in 1913. But the jail authorities were 
clever people. They inflicted the punishment all 
right, but did not note anything to the effect in 
the tickets. The Jailor gave out most barefacedly 
that the charge was absolutely false. So nothing 
came of it. A convict can never establish his 
charge against the Jailor. 

Punishments continued unabated. When 
all kinds of fetters had been tried one by onje, 
we were at last confined to cells. This latter 
affair had also in its turn a variefty of forms. 
The ordinary convicts, when confined, > could 
come downstairs and have their bath and meal. 



93 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

There was also no restriction to their talking to 
each other. But with regard to ourselves, the or- 
ders were that we should not talk to each other 
and that any body found speaking to us would be 
punished. So although it was separate confine- 
ment in name, it was in reality solitary confine- 
ment. Many of us had to pass three months or 
more in this state. 

This began to tell upon the health of many. 
Port 'Blair was a breeding ground of malaria. 
The epidemic of fever was a constant factor 
and now over and above that began dysentery. 
The authorities thought perhaps it was too much 
and so decided upon some changes. So a few 
of us were selected and sent out to the Settle- 
ment, on the occasion of the coronation cere- 
mony. Barindra went to the Engineering file, 
that is to say to work as a labourer under a 
mason, Ullaskar went to dig up earth and make 
bricks. Some went to the Forest Department 
to hew wood, others to draw Rickshaws and 
others again to work at the embankment. 

' B,ut as fate would have it, this arrangement 
, turned out for us to be from the frying pan into 

H 



THE STRIKE 

the fire. When we were inside the prison, how- 
ever difficult the work might have been, we 
could get fixed and full rations from the Govt, 
and we had not to fear the rain and the storm. 
But once outside, we were deprived of even that 
comfort. We had, of course to labour hard from 
6 to 10 in the morning and from 1 to 4-30 in 
the afternoon ; in addition we got roasted in 
the sun and soaked in the rain. And in Port 
Blair, besides the fact that the rains lasted seven 
months in a year, there was the pest of leeches 
in the forest. That was why many people had 
tried to run away out of fear of having to work in 
the forest. 

To crown all these sufferings, one did not 
get the full ration. A good part was stolen and 
sold in villages. Everybody, from the European 
officers down to the ordinary convicts, knew of 
this stealing and yet it could never be prevent- 
ed. Most of the officials -took bribes themselves 
and so there was no remedy. An ordinary 
convict would not complain easily in the matter, 
for he knew perfectly well that it would spell 
danger for him if he untied his tongue. 



95 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

^here were four hospitals outside the pri- 
son ior the convicts. But they were all under 
the supervision of a Bengali Assistant Surgeon. 
So the Chief Commissioner, Colonel Browning, 
passed orders to the effect that if we fell ill we 
should not be allowed in^those hospitals but 
should come back into the prison. It was not 
certainly pleasant to walk a distance of 5, 7 or 
10 miles, shivering all the while with fever and 
carrying beds and utensils on the shoulder. And 
moreover, could one expect good treatment even 
inside the prison ? We had to lie down some 
21 hours of the day in small rooms attached to 
the prison hospital. The latrine arrangement, 
which consisted of a simple pot, was also in the 
room itself. There were shutters on the rear 
wall, which served as a good passage for rains 
to come in, but which did not help proper 
ventilation in any way. The jail commission 
that came in Jan. 1920 to inspect Port Blair 
spoke very strongly against the arrangement. 
There will be soon, it appears, some efifort at 
amelioration. 

However, we had thought so long that once 



THE STRIKE 

outside the prison our situation would improve 
a little. But that illusion now vanished entirely. 
We were, as the Bengali saying goes, between 
a tiger on land and a crocodile in water. Ordi- 
nary convicts are released from hard labour, 
when they become in time warders and Petty 
Officers and, if they know reading and. writing, 
Munshis. But for us there was no prospect in 
that way. 

So one by one we all of us refused to work 
outside and came back to the prison. 

About this time a very tragic event hap- 
pened. Indubhushan committed suicide by hang- 
ing. He was of a strong and robust constitu- 
tion and was never frightened by physical la- 
bour. But the petty insults of Jail life exhausted 
his patience day by day. He said now and then, 
" It is impossible for me to pass ten years of 
my life in this hell". One night he tore his 
shirt, made a rope out of it and hung himself 
from the skylight. The Superintendent was 
telephoned that very night, but he did not turn up 
till 8 o'clock next morning. Many of the guards 
who accompanied the Jailor to Indu's room on 



97 



m 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

that night gave out that there was a piece of 
writing tied to his neck-ticket. The truth of 
the matter cannot be known ; the writing was 
never found. We asked the Jailor about it later 
on, but he denied the existence of any such 
thing. Jndu's elder brother petitioned the Go- 
vernment for an enquiry. The task was en- 
trusted to the Deputy Commissioner of Port 
Blair. But nothing came of it. The whole affair 
somehow ended in oblivion. 

As I said, severity of work outside made 
all come back one by one to the prison. Ullaskar 
also did the same. He was given brick laying 
to do in the sun. The Junior Medical Officer 
of the hospital recommended that Ullaskar was 
not fit to bear the heat of the sun. But why 
should the white Overseer take into considera- 
tion the advice of a mere Bengali Officer ? So 
Ullaskar had to do the same work as before. 
Naturally he refused it and returned to the pri- 
son saying that it was belittling to one's manhood 
to work simply out of the fear of punishment, at 
least he was not the man to do such a thing. So 
it was ordered that he should be given handcuffs 



98 



TttE STRIkK 

and barfetlers for seven days. But those seven 
days did not pass. On the very first day the Petty 
Officer on going to ■ take off the handcuffs at 
4.30, saw that Ullaskar was senseless with 
fever and was hanging by the handcuffs. He was 
immediately sent to the Hospital, The tempera 
ture rose to IDS'" in the night. On the next 
morning it was found that the fever had enti- 
rely gone down but Ullaskar was no more 
Ullaskar. The man who was ever at peace even 
in the midst of the utmost danger, who never 
ceased smiling even when he suffered most, 
was to day insane 1 

On that day the real nature of a prison re- 
vealed itself to us. There was no hope for any 
one to keep body and soul together and return 
to his country. Some would die by hanging, 
others would die by going mad. So we asked 
ourselves, why should we tamely accept suffer- 
ing, if death was the only end ? Almost all of 
us then determined not to do any work until 
some special arrangement was made for us. 
Thus on our side we sent (he ultimaitum and 
waited with a desperate resolution for the com* 



99 



THE TALE OK MV EXtLE 

bat. The authorities also on their side began to 
bring out the sharpest weapons they had in 
their armoury and hurl them upon us. 

It was a struggle between the elephant and 
the tiger. A little before this Nanigopal of 
Chinsura, Pulindas of Dacca and some 3 or 4 
others had arrrived. Nanigopal was a young 
boy and yet he was given oil-grinding. He too 
was forced to join the strike. The authorities 
locked us up in one block separated from the 
other prisoners and placed choice Pathan war- 
ders over us. The ration also was curtailed. 
And no precaution was overlooked to prevent 
us from communicating with each other. We 
might talk in the latrine, so a guard waited us 
even there. But the chain snaps if it is made 
too tight. It is a vain task to terrorise people 
into obeying the law, if they have no respect 
for the law. 

We demanded three things chiefly— (1) 
proper food, (2) release from labour and (3) 
freedom to associate with each other. 

But we were locked up in different cells, 
each separated from the other by 4 or 5 cells in 



100 



tHE STRIDE 

between. The outcome was that while formerly 
we talked low, now we began to shout at the 
top of our voice. You cannot shut the mouth 
of a person even if you hang him up by the 
handcuffs. The authorities caught in us a verti- 
able Tartar. They could not yield to our de- 
mands for fear of losing their prestige and yet 
otherwise the strike would not end. At this criti- 
cal moment the new Superintendent was trans- 
ferred and in his place came our old Superin- 
tendent. The latter advised the Chief Com- 
missioner to give some of us only light work 
and send us outside the Jail. Our reply was that 
we were ready to do work on condition that 
all of us were sent outside, otherwise we would 
all come back. 

Some 10 or 12 were sent outside with the 
task of watching the coconut trees. The trees 
were Govt, property and the guard's duty was 
to see that the fruits were not stolen. The task 
was easy. But each of us was posted in an 
isolated place, so that there could not be any 
meeting or convei;pation. 

The strike, however, continued inside the 



101 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

Jail. Some time after Nandalal and Nanigopal 
were transferred to a smaller Jail in the Viper 
Isle. There Nanigopal started hunger-strike. 
So the arrangement that everyone should be 
sent outside was not carried out in practice. 

In the mean while those who were outside 
struck work en bloc. It took about a month to 
arrange the strike, as the whereabouts of each 
and every one had to be investigated and com- 
munication established between all. 

So when they came back to the prison, 
each sentenced to three months, they found 
that the strike within the Jail had almost broken 
down. Many had joined work out of despair. 
Nanigopnl was brought back to the prison alter 
he had gone on hunger-strike for 4 days. He 
was forced to take milk by means of a rubber 
pipe thrust into his nose. Perhaps the authori- 
ties were afraid that if he died he might after 
death speak ill of them 1 On this occasion it 
was Nanigopal, Biren and a few others boys 
who took upon , themselves all the sufferings 
incidental to the strike. Punishment was heaped 
upon punishment. There was nothing to hope 

m 



THE STRIKK 

for. So one by one everybody broke away from 
the strike. Only Nanigopal stuck . to it, as if he 
had staked his Hfe on it. 

Days passed on. Nanigopal became lean 
and emaciated like a skeleton. And yet he would 
not give up his resolve. When he was ex- 
hausted and helpless through fasting for more 
than a month and a half, even then the autho- 
rities did not hesitate to hang him up by the 
handcuffs. The result was that the hunger-strike 
spread again like wild fire. And however the 
authorities might try to prevent it, the news about 
Indubhushan, Ullaskar and Nanigopal reached 
the country. The press started a vigorous agita- 
tion. So tlie Government was compelled to send 
Dr. Lukis to make an enquiry. But the report 
of this doctor has not yet been published, 
although, as a consequence, Ullaskar was sent 
over to the lunatic asylum in Madras and the 
others also heaved a sigh of relief for some 
time at least. 

Nanigopal was also after considerable diffi- 
culty persuaded by his friends to take food. A 
little after this, those who had come from out- 

103 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

side with three month's imprisonment were also 
sent out again as their term expired. 

Thus ended the first period of the Strike. 



CHAPTER VII. 
THE OUTCOME OF THE STRIKE. 

TT'VEN death is not a release to the man to 
-*--^ whom the fates are hostile. We who 

remained outside passed our days somehow 
indifferently. But news reached us shortly that 
there was disturbance again inside the prison. 
Continued oppression had forced Nanigopal to 
strike once more. As punishment he was given 
gunny-cloth to put on, but he refused it. So his 
shorts were forcibly taken away ; he was given 
gunny shorts and confined in his cell. He how- 
ever threw away the gunny shorts and sat down 
quite naked, repeating the mantram, "Naked 
we come out of our mother's womb and naked 
shall we return." He broke his neck-ticket, 
would not stand up when the Chief Commis- 



104 



THE OUTCOME OF THE STRIKE 

sioner came on visit, nor salaam him. If asked 
what he wanted he replied that he did not want 
anything— and so on. ,i, 

Our apprehensions were that the poor boy 
had gone mad. On enquiry, however, we found 
that he was perfectly sane and sober. Only he 
was busy solving the problem why he should 
be in duty bound to obey laws that the British 
people had made according to their sweet fancy 
and with which his own people had nothing to 
do. His ^conscience dictated that he shp,uld i^of. 
Then why should he do it, simply to save his 
life ? What was the value of that life which 
made life miserable in the very effort to save it ? 

In answer to his problem we could find 
nothing better than this only consolation and 
one hope that even the fiercest master cannot 
hold in subjection the body of the man whose 
mind has the seal of freedom imprinted: upon 
it by the hand of God. 

But our turn was also coming. About tl^is 
time the Calcutta Press was carrying on a rather 
hot discussion about the condition of the poli- 
tical prisoners in the Andamans. The authorities 

105 



THE TALE OP MY EXILE 

thought that it was we who supplied all the 
information. Of course, it was not possible for 
us always and in everything to obey the rules 
and regulations. We had to go here and there 
for the sake of the stomach in search of fruits 
or vegetables or some one thing or another. We 
were also compelled to make secret rendezvous 
with o^ur friends and comrades, as it was almost 
impossible for us to associate with ordinary con- 
victs. The authorities did not understand these 
things or perhaps pretended not to understand 
and endeavoured to put us into difficulties. 

One fine morning a regular campaign of 
searches was launched upon all on a sudden. 
All the places where we eat, sat or slept were 
surrounded by the Police. It amounted, how- 
ever, to a comic rehearsal of the Maniktola 
Garden affair, a tempest in a tea pot. Nothing 
could be secured except a few innocent 
letters and some poems. But the Chief Com- 
missioner ordered us all to be removed to the 
prison. Various rumours gradually gained 
ground to the effect that we had, it seemed, 
planned to prepare bombs, blow up Port Blair, 



106 



THE OUTCOME OF THE STRIKE 

capture a Govt. Steamer and escape ; also 
that the omniscient Chief Commissioner on the 
advice of a loyal prisoner named Lalmohan 
Saha had recourse to all these preventive 
steps in order to save his kingdom from immi- 
nent catastrophe. When he came to visit the 
Jail, we asked him, " Wh;»t is the matter, Sir ? 
Why this unwarranted attack upon poor people 
like us ?". He replied with the most innocent 
air, "I do not know anything about it. I acted 
only according to instructions from the India 
Government." 

Well and good, there was no answer to 
that. But we learnt a few days after that many 
people ontsjde had been punished because they 
talked with us and that a Police witness had 
secured from somewhere a few gramophone 
pins, some bits of iron and things like that and 
so had proved beyond any doubt our evil inten- 
tion of preparing bombs 1 Since the time when 
some innocent people were punished in con- 
nexion with the train-wrecking affair at Nara- 
yangarh we knew perfectly well all the capa- 
cities of the Police. So we asked the authorities 



107 



THE TALE OK MY EXILE 

why instead of hitting behind the back they did 
not try us in open court, if they had proof or 
reasonable cause for suspicion against us. But 
to that they turned a deaf ear and did not deign 
any answer. We could only bite our lips and keep 
quiet. 

A few months after, Sir Reginald Craddock 
came to visit Post Blair. We thought here was 
our most well-wishing patron. This time some- 
thing would certainly be done for us. But no 
sooner had we begun to narrate our woes to 
him than he revealed himself in his true colours 
and told us point-blank, "You were hatching 
conspiracy while outsidfe". 

' We replied, " If such is your impression 
then why did you put on an innocent air and 
say that you did not know anything when we 
first put the question to you ? And supposing 
that you had siibsequently proofs Of out: guilt, 
then why do you fight shy of instituting an 
open trial for us ?". Sir Regiriald answered with 
a twinkle in his eye, "You know, such things 
can never be proved". ' 

Nanigopal also narrated his whole histofy. 

108 



THE OUTCOME OF THE STRIKE 

But the Hon'ble Sir Craddock said in reply, 
" You are an enemy of the Govt, you ought to 
have been shot down": Narii retofted; "If'that 
is so, then why waste money to dress up such 
useless parapharnalia as laws and courts ? you 
could have immensely shortened the process." 

This was the justice that we had. Now 
what were we to do ? Unless the Supreme Help- 
er came down and helped us, there was nothing 
to be done. This time His patience too was 
perhaps exhausted. 

We agiin gave up work one by one. When 
■the prison authorities were tired of dealing 
out punishments, they sent for trial in the court 
those of us who were not transported for Hfe. 
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Lewis, Was en- 
trusted with that task. He came a few days be- 
fore the trial to have a conversation with us and 
to enquire about the cause of the strike. 

When he heard of the sort of treatment meted 

out to us, he said that the India Government 

did not want that we should be treated any 

■better than the ordinary convicts; no body , in 

Post Blair had any hand in the matter. But we 



Jj09 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

pointed out that we were not allowed even the 
privileges of the ordinary convicts. These latter, 
if they knew reading and writing, got decent 
work in the office ; and even if they were 
illiterate, they could.become warders and Petty 
Officers* We were deprived of all these privi- 
leges. The others got a monthly pay of 12 As. 
after the term of 5 years and earned their 
own living after 10 years. But ours was the fate 
of eternally rotting within the prison. Mr. Lewis 
answered that the India Govt, only was respon- 
sible for all these arrangements. One of us put 
the query " Sir, you have no right to do good, 
have you then only preserved the right to do 
evil?". 

The Sahib laughed and said, "What are we 
to do ? Peace and discipline must be observed 
in the prison". 

" Justly or unjustly disciphne must any how 
be observed, this is the upshot of the whole 
matter, is not it ?" 

The Sahib did not proffer any answer to 
that. He knew the entire business perfectly well. 
But he too was after all a Govt, servant, So he 

110 



THE OUTCOME OF THE STRIKE 

enhanced our terms of punishment, by one 
month or two or six, according to the cases and 
went his way. Later on I had occasion ; to 
meet him and as the conversation turned upon 
Ullaskar he said, " Ullaskar is one of the noblest 
boys I have ever seen, but he is too idealistic." 
And yet he had to punish Ullaskar for the sake 
of his service. 

The purpose of punishment was to keep 
peace, but. that peace it was soon found very 
difficult to keep. Inspired by our example strike 
parties began to increase among the ordinary 
convicts. Consequently the work of the Jail 
suffered. The authorities were now cornered and 
had to do something or other. 

All on a sudden some 7 or 8 of those poli- 
tical prisoners who were term convicts were sent 
back to prisons in India. Even the Jailor who 
never hesitated to abuse and insult us approach- 
ed us one day and very politely asked us to give 
up the'strike, saying, "Now you can retreat with 
honour". He gave us to understand that most 
of the term convicts would be repatriated and 
that those who remained in Port Blair would 



111 



THE TALE OF MV EXILE 

get special privileges as regards their work 
and food. We replied, "Amen, but if with- 
in two months we do not see any inlimation 
of those special arrangements then we go our 
way and make our own special arrangements". 
Thus the treaty was signed between the two 
parties and thus ended the second chapter 6f 
the Strike. 

In a few days everybody was sent back to 
India excepting Barindra, Hera' Chandra and 
Ullaskar of Alipore fame, Pulin Behari and 
Suresh Chandra of Dacca and the Savarkar 
brothers and Joshi of Na-sik. The intimation of 
special arrangements also reached us. They were 
as follows : — 

1) We would have to remain in the prison 
for 14 years including the remissions. After 
that we would be released from labour and 
would enjoy the privileges of a prisoner under- 
going simple imprisonment. As for letting us 
outside the prison, the thing would be consider- 
ed after 14 years. 

2) During the period of our stay within 
the prison we would get all the privileges that 



112 



THE OUTCOME OP THE STRIKE 

an ordinary prisoner got outside the prison. 
That is to say, .after thq expiry of 5 years we 
would be able to put on Dhotis instead of shorts, 
we would get a monthly alloiwance of 12 As. in 
cash and we would get the right of cooking our 
own food, I ■ / / 

3) Every year a report would be sen^difiie 
India Qoypmment as regards our behaviour. 
After 10 ypars the Govt, \youli1 consider whether 
better arrangements could be done for us or 
not. 

4) From now we would enjoy in every 
way all the rights and privileges of an. ordinary 
convict. AlsiO we would not get any exemp- 
tion from whipping, on the plea of our being 
political prisoners. 

However, this something; was better, than 
nothing. We did not forget that our masters 
could have even refused it altogether. 



113 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

CHAPTER VIII. 

STRIKE AGAIN. 

'\)\7*E fglt somewhat at ease when the term 
^ ^ convicts were sent back to India. The 
6 or 7 that were left behind' had now to 
settle down permanently in Port Blair. What 
was the use then of creating further trouble ? 
As there was no hope of release, it was better to 
await death and pass days peacefully. So we 
thought. 

But peace there could not be to our lot. 
The Great War broke out in 1914. Its reper- 
cussions affected even India and gave birth to 
the Lahore Conspiracy. As a consequence some 
50 men of the Gadr Party had to seek the King's 
hospitality in Port Blair. Many Sikh soldiers of 
the Indian Army were also sentenced for poli- 
tical crimes. And some 15 or 20 fresh prisoners 
from Bengal arrived. Thus Port Blair became 
quite a lively hell, with such a crowd of 
political prisoners. However none of them, save 

lU 



STRIKE AGAIN 

4 or 5, were givenioil-griiiding. Not that, for 
that matter, coir-pounding was for them an easy 
job, but the real trouble was that the Govt, 
ration was quite insufficient for them. First of 
all, they were Punjabis, huge and tall and ro- 
bust ; and secondly, they : had for a long time 
been in America and were accustomed to a good 
quantity of meat. So two rotis and one pot of rice 
hardly served to fill even an insignificant corner 
of their stomach. And, especially, they were not 
the people to keep quiet under provocation and 
insult. Naturally, in a few days relations became 
strained between them and the authorities. 

The quarrel began with Paramananda of 
Jhansi. On some charge or other, he was taken 
before the Jailor. The Jailor to show his autho- 
rity expressed himself as vehemently as he could. 
Paramananda too retorted back in exactly the 
same pitch. From words they came to blows. 
Paramananda was punished with 20 stripes. 
And the strike began. But it did not last long. 
The Jailor himself came and cajoled everybody 
into hoping for better treatment in the future 
and managed cleverly to break up the Strike. 

115 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

The seed of discontent, however, did not 
die. The'trouble started afresh a few days after 
over a very small affair. Usually Sunday is a holir 
day for the convicts. On that day they arc relieved 
from all duty excepting cleaning their own 
clothes. But in Port Blair they have to mow the 
grass in the Jail yard. Now on a holiday they 
remain shut up in their cells during the whole 
middle part of the day, and if they are also en- 
gaged in mowing the grass in the morning, then 
the holiday becomes absolutely meaningless to 
them. So Jagatram who had been the Editor of 
the Gadr in America and some others ' refused 
to do the work as a protest. The Superintendent 
tried them and punished each with 6 month's 
fetters and solitary cell. No body was, pleased 
to see such a heavy expiation demanded 
for a comparatively light crime. Then as days 
passed, when it was seen that there was no pos- 
sibility of any amelioration in their condition, 
many began to give up work. A great to-do was 
created about this time over another incident. 
A quarrel broke out between an old Sikh and 
some of the guards. The former complained 



lis 



STRIKE AGAIN 

that he was taken by them into a rOom and was 
severely beaten. That might be true or not, 
btit, as a matter of fact, within two or three days 
of the complaint, he was attacked with severe 
dysentery and had to take shelter in the hospital. 
Here he develop6d' phthisis and died very short- 
ly. Most of the people believed that violence 
was the cause of his death, but the authorities 
of course, denied, the allegation. As no steps 
were taken about this incident, some 4 or 5 gave 
up eating in protest. PritHwi Singh was their 
leader. He was forced to take in milk through 
his nose. He stood this for 5 months. If it were 
some other country there would have, been a 
tremendous hue and cry over the matter. Btit 
who knew anything about Port Blair ? Whom 
did it concern in any way if a couple or even a 
dozen of prisoners' died there' ? "''•' 

Three or four more Sikhs contracted 
phthisis and died after two or three month's 
suffering. I have spoken already of Pandit' Ram- 
raksha. He gave up eating becaus'e his sacred 
thread was taken away when he entered the pri- 
son. He too died of phthisis. Another committed 



117 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

suicide by swallowing a bit of lead, as he found 
no other way of escape. 

Those who died escaped, of course, all 
trouble. But how miserable they were who went 
mad and had still to live ! Of these latter was 
Jatish Chandra Pal of the Baleswar Case. He 
became quite insane while he was locked up in 
separate confinement. He was sent to the luna- 
tic asylum. Later on he was removed to India. 
Now he; is passing his days in the Berhampore 
lunatic asylum. 

There was no end to events of this kind. Of 
whom shall I writeandof whom shall I not? There 
was a Sikh, Chhatra Smgh by name, who had 
been a teacher in the Khalsa School at Layalpur. 
I do notknow what crime he committed in IndiH. 
But in Port Blair he was locked up in a cell 
from the very beginning. It is said that he 
attempted to attack the Superintendent some 
time when the strike trouble was going on. So 
the warders thrashed him till he fell senseless. 
And from that time he was shut in a cell and was 
not taken out till after two years. A cage was 
made for him by enclosing one corner of a 



U8 



STRIKE AGAIN 

veranda with wire-netting. There he had to eat, 
there to answer the call of nature and there also 
to sleep. Needless to say, the consequence 
was that his health broke down and he was 
almost a dying man. Another Sikh, Amar Singh, 
had almost the same fate. 

Now, when the number of deaths began to 
increase continually, the authorities seemed to 
wake up to the gravity of the situation. Jagat- 
ram was suffering from brain complaints due 
to a long term of separate confinement. He and 
two others were given work in the Press, Bhai 
Paramanand, a former Professor of the Daya- 
nand College, had never joined any strike smd 
was made a compounder in the hospital. But 
the Professor could not long enjoy his happi- 
ness. His wife published in the papers extracts 
from a letter of his giving out the conjiition of 
the political prisoners. The Chief Commissioner 
did not feel at all grateful for this and so con- 
fined him, without any trial, in the lock-up, 
Paramananda pleaded that that letter had duly 
passed through the hands of the Superintendent. 
There was no reason to disbelieve him, but all 



119 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

the same, he did not escape persecution. So 
now that he found persecution to be the inevi- 
table companion of life, he determined to give 
up life by not eating. Fortunately he was re- 
leased shortly after by the King's Proclamation. 
But as for those who are still rotting in the 
prison, who knows when their misery will end? 



CHAPTER IX. 

CAUSES OF DEGENP]BATION AMONG CONVICTS. 

T^rObody in the country knows anything about 
■^ ^ the convicts, We, have no idea of the 
fact that owing to our persistent neglect some 
lacs of people — fallen miserables of our own 
society-r-are made to live, in expiation of their 
sins, in a veritable hell upon this very earth. It 
is indeed our fortune that rare and great souls 
come now and then in our midst and do the 
thinking on our behalf even about the ignorance 
and misery and sorrow of our mothers and 
sisters at home. We do not care to think if we 



120 



CAUSES OF DEGENERATION 

can help it and even we curse those who do 
think. Sq it goes without saying that in the 
matter of the sinners and criminals of our society 
we would simply laugh at the idea of paying 
any heed to them. But the times are now such 
that we must needs think of these things. Do 
we not see that our sins in the way of neglect- 
ing and despising and oppressing our kith and 
kin have accumulated to a perilous extent and 
that it is this which has paralysed, all the life- 
movement of our motherland ? The nation must 
be cured of this disease now or never. 

On an average some 1,200. men are trans- 
ported every year to the Andamans. Among 
them there are lads of l6 or 17 and old men of 
over 50 as well, who, by the grace of the medi- 
cal authorities, are considered quite fit for 
exile. Our benign gov^rnipent can never be 
accused of any defect in method and procedure. 
No convict is sent to the Andamans unless he is 
passed by the Civil Surgeon himself. But that 
is hardly of any use to the poor creatures con- 
cerned. For if the doctor happens to be callous 
and hard-hearted, he tries to get rid of the affair 



121 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

as summarily as possible. It is only one of many 
things he has to look to. Perhaps he has to do 
the task of examining some two hundred con- 
victs when he is already fatigued and exhaust- 
ed with' his other duties. So he comes up in 
hot haste, stands in front of each convict for a 
minute or two, hiis a look at the tongue or feels 
the body here and there and finishes by writing 
down whatever comes uppermost to him. 

During' the last ten years I have seen some 
200 or 250 consignments of prisoners coming 
to the Andamans. At the time of their arrival, 
they are quite raw aud inexperienced. Most of 
them perhaps have committed a crime under 
grave provocation. In each consignment some 
15 p. c. are sure to be found who are quite in- 
nocent. They have been thrown into this great 
calamity by the machinations of either the Police 
or the Zemindar or their village enemies. Some 
10 p. c. are habitual criminals, and it is by the 
contact of these that the casual criminals or first 
offenders who form the majority begin to corrupt 
and degenerate. Then when they are distributed 
and scattered in different blocks, they gather 



122 



CAUSES OF DEGENERATION 

everyday dirt and impurities into whateyer there 
is pure in them. The human, the divine in them 
is gradually uprooted and gives place, to the 
tares of sheer animality. The cause of this de- 
generation is the band of jailbirds in the Cellular,. 
As in every other prison in India, in the 
Cellular also there are three categories of pri- 
soners — men of vicious character, men of good 
character and, in between, men of a weak and 
harmless character. For those who are naturally 
graced with finer and loftier implses there is no 
need at all of the regulations and impositions 
and oppressions of the prison. The inherent 
beauty of their souls spontaneously unfolds itself 
as a flower discloses petal after petal. The fiery 
ordeal of all the sufferings and sorrows of a 
prison-life serves only to purify and enhance 
the golden glory within, never to tarnish it. On 
the other hand, those who from birth and nature 
gravitate towards things foul, evil and gross, 
turn absolutely desperate under the goading of 
persecution and the pressure of the thousand 
bonds of prison-life. Hand-cuffs, fetters, soli- 
tary confinement — nothing in the world has any 

123 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

terror for them. They consider it heroism to 
take a whipping. It is simply astoimding to see 
their strength of mind and fearlesness when 
they suffer punishment for having taken part in 
the most shameful arid heinous crimes. These 
people remain imprisoned for a year or two in 
the Cellular and are then let off outside in the 
settlement. But they come back again. And for 
that purpose they either thrash somebody or 
steal or gamble or escape and absent themselves 
for a few days and then ofifer themselves up for 
punishment. Even oil-grinding in the Cellular 
is an easier task than any work Outside, whether 
in the Forest Department or in the rubber and 
tea gardens ©r in the brick-ldln. In the Cellular 
you have not to suffer from the sun or the rain. 
Also you can have a full meal here, as a prisoner's 
ration is not stolen. I have seen veteran thieves 
coming back into the prison for the tenth or the 
twelvth time. There is none in Port Blair who 
is not acquainted with the exploits of such 
notorious jail-birds as Sera, Murga, Sayad, Ma- 
havira, Palwan, Gore, Charley and others. 

But it is the ca^iual offenders, we^k-minded 



124 



CAUSES OF DEGENERATION 

and harmless creatures, who form the bulk, that 
IS to say, 80 to 90 p. c. of the prisoner population. 
They come as simple souls, quite unaccustomed 
to sin or crime, driven by the force of unfortu- 
nate circumstances or by their evil destiny. But 
they return cunning, cruel, avaricious and vicious 
after all the harsh experiences, the ceaseless 
punishments and sufferings and want, the conti- 
nuous contact with what is vile andi sordid, 
that they have to undergo here. The causes that 
lead to the ruin of a tolerably good soul in the 
prison may be thus summarised : 

(1) The company of veteran and hardened 
criminals and the spectacle of their vicious and 
corrupt practices. 

(2) Incapacity to do hard labour. When 
it becomes physically impossible to grind out 
30 lbs of oil, one is forced to seek the aid of 
the more robust ruffians in order to avoid 
punishment and that means to sell, in return, 
one's body for the most abject ends. 

(3) The punitive regulations based upon 
the lowest kind of brute force. In the beginning 
one has the feeling of utmost shame and fear to 



125 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

be put in handcuffs and fetters or to be stripped 
naked and whipped. But once this shame and fear 
are renmoved the man becomes desperate ; blind- 
ed with fury and hatred he rushes headlong on 
the path of evil and corruption. Impotent rage 
leading to suicide is a very common occurrence 
in prison. 

(4) The demands of want. There is noth- 
ing in the world to which one accustomed to 
smoking does not gradually stoop in order just 
to get a bit of tobacco. I have seen with my 
own eyes people, who had no sweets or meat to 
eat tor several years, fall into the most shocking 
habits for the sake of only a handful of sugar. 

(5) Forced celibacy. Rules and regula- 
tions cannot repress the natural hungers of the 
body. In any jail, whether in Port Blair or in 
India, one has simply to become a prisoner in 
order to see in how many revolting ways man 
can pollute his life for the sake of the satisfac- 
tion of the appetites, severed as he is from the 
society of his wife and children and yearning 
for love and affection and company. The want 
of home influence, the shutting of all ways of 



126 



CAUSES OF DEGENERATION 

natural satisfaction turns a man gradually into 
a sheer brute. 

(6) The want of religious life and en- 
lightenment. There are a thousand ways in the 
prison leading to viqe, but not the least arrange- 
ment to instil knowledge, to evoke the higher 
susceptibilities. When the prisoner was a free 
man in his country he had around him temples 
and vigrakas (idols of gods) his Gurti and his Pu- 
rohit, religious ceremonies and festivities and 
countless other things that helped to mould and 
form his character. But the prison shuts out all 
these wholesome influences and opens to the 
unfortunate prisoner the gate of — heaven or 
hell ? 

(7) Absence of all incentive to healthy 
habits. In Indian prisons the prisoners get some 
privileges if they are neat and clean, behave 
well, show a good character or do more than 
the assigned work. All these are taken into ac- 
count and a remission of 10 or 12 days per 
month is allowed on the total term. This serves as 
a strong temptation to reform and correct oneself. 
But there is no such arrangement for remission in 



127 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

Port Blair. Here whatever the prisoners get as 
such are only on exceptional occasions, perhaps 
once or twice in 10 years, at the time of some 
Jubilee or Royal Ceremony. 

(8) There is no limit to the term of pu- 
nishment. Transportation for life in Port Blair 
means literally life-long transportation, that is to 
say, till death. The Chief Commissioner, how- 
ever, has a special prerogative by which he can 
recommend to the India Government the re- 
lease of a political or decoity prisoner after the 
term of 25 years, certifying that the person has 
during the period led an ideal life and can be 
remitted the rest of the term. But as a matter of 
fact some 10 p. c. of these recommendations are 
returned with the reply that the Honourable 
Government would keep the particular person 
under observation for five years more, ki some 
cases a categorical refusal is given and the pri- 
soner is let off within Port Blair itself as an ex- 
convict. Of the remaining 90 p. c. those only 
find themselves released in the end who withstand 
the suicidal atmosphere of Port Blair and endure 
through this life of suffering and sorrow, of vice 



128 



CAUSES OF DEGENERATION 

andfjoUution. How many can cling to life hop- 
ing for this far off will o' the wisp of a release 
at the end of 20 or 25 years ? Besides, there are 
many prisoners \who have more than one life- 
sentence upon them, that is to say, the total 
term amounting to 40 or 60 years. I have seen 
some sentenced to 75 and even 100 years ! Who 
can expect a limit to the doing and daring of these 
unfortunate people who have no gleam of hope 
to brighten a never-ending and cheerless pros- 
pect ? The murders and deaths, the attempts to 
escape, and above all the moral degradation that 
takes place in Port Blair are all due to despair 
and disappointment. 

(9) If, over and above these causes, the 
Jail Officers are cruel and heartless, then all the 
conditions stand fulfilled for the jail to become 
an ideal hell. Of course, one may not expect 
much of love and affection from the higher 
authorities, but the pity is that even inattention 
or laziness on their part is sufficient to do all 
the evil. The Petty Officers and Tindals and 
Jamadars take avantage of the weakness of their 
superiors and make the life of the poor prisoner 

129 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

miserable and unbearable. 

(10) And Port Blair is the home of 
all diseases. Malaria, diarrhoea, dysentery, phthi- 
sis, pneumonia, typhoid rage here freely. People 
have to bear the burden of a mournful life and 
toil ceaselessly in sun and rain. They are tired 
and exhausted in mind and body. They either 
await death with a grim determination or they 
revolt altogether. It is impossible here to save 
a man who is resolved to die. All the external 
conditions are favourable to that end. A man 
keeps his soul here with the utmost difficulty 
and is required almost to sacrifice life in order 
to save it. It is a tug of war without break 
or stop between man on one side and death on 
the other, 

(11) Finall)', once, this putrid atmosphere 
of sin and vice and misery pollutes a man's 
character, very soon he falls a prey to sordid 
diseases and becomes completely broken down. 
Words fail to give any idea of the extent which 
these diseases have reached in Port Blair and 
the shocking forms which they have taken. The 
prisoners delected with these diseases are pu- 



130 



SOME SNAP-SHOTS FROM PRISON LIKE 

nished and hence they try their best to hide the 
thing till the very end. Women here do not 
know what chastity is nor have naten any sense 
of what character is — brute passions rage naked 
and unbridled in this hell. 



CHAPTER X. 

SOME SNAP-SHOTS FROM PEISON-LIFE. 

nr^HE prisoners, thus thrown into a welter of 
-*- vice and deprived of all hope and ex- 

pectation, develop most wonderful varieties of 
character. Repeated punishment and dismal des- 
pair make some terribly irritable and absolutely 
cynical. Mahavira and Sayad were of this type. 
When we first met Mahavira, he had had whip- 
ping already more than half a dozen times. As for 
handcuffs, fetters, cross-bar or penal diet, the 
number of times he had suffered ' them was 
simply incalculable. In appearance, he was tall, 
sickly, ungainly, ferocious. The most filthy 

131 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

abuse was always on his lips ; he would 
mutter to himself day and night. The usual 
epithets of abuse were not sufficient to give vent 
to his anger, and he had to coin new ones. 
Mr. Murray was short and dwarfish, so he was 
dubbed Bateria {Bater is a kind of small bird ). 
As for Mr. Barry, he had some hundred names 
given to him. And all these hallowed names 
Mahavira used to recite regularly every morning 
and evening with all sorts of graceful grimaces 
and ecstatic gestures ! He suffered from chronic 
constipation and complete loss of appetite. And 
he was firmly convinced that this was due to 
the same eternal kachu leaf that he had had to 
take during the thirty years of his prison-life and 
which had all been collected and solidified in 
his stomach. For a roll of tobacco he fell at 
the feet of anybody and everybody, showered 
abuses right and left and even did not let off 
God and all His brood for having thus thrown 
him into misery. Whenever any Officer or 
visitor came to inspect the prison, Mahavira 
was sure to present himself, of all persons, 
with bis endless complaints and ceaseless 



132 



SOME SNAP-SHOTS FROM PRISON-LIFE 

meanings. And finally whatiia shower of bless- 
ings he poured out from his inimitable voca- 
bulary, when he saw that none of his com- 
plaints were remedied. 

Sayad was an old man, tall in stature, with 
a white beard, blood-shot eyes and a vicious 
tongue. He was as clever in flattering as in 
abusing and quarrelling. All the qualities that 
Mahavira had, incarnated in him. Besides, he 
was sometimes quite pleasant and jolly. If he 
got a bit of tobacco he frisked and jumped 
about with his eyes almost protruding out in 
delight and gave a demonstration' of his skill in 
gadka ( a small baton ) play with all sorts of 
queer gestures and postures. Now and then 
he thundered out with a terrible cry, "Bom 
kali kalkuttawali " ( Victory to Kali, goddess of 
Calcutta); and when the th.ought of his cruel 
fate overwhelmed him he shook the whole Jail 
with his curses and invectives. He had an in- 
satiable desire for good dishes. He would name 
in one breath an infinite list of all varieties of 
drinkable, lickable, munchable dainties — Pilao, 
Korma, Kopta, Kabab and so on. He would 



133 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

say with heroic gesticulations, " Such things 
only can Sayad eat and to say that he gets ins- 
tead Kachu leaf and arhar dal ! woe is me ! woe 
is me 1 O God ! O the Merciful ! " In the block 
where he was lodged none could have a wink of 
sleep at night. He would sit down at the closed 
door of his cell and abuse to his heart's con- 
tent till somebody came and gave him his night's 
ration, that is to say, a bit of tobacco. At times he 
would almost bring down the whole prison with 
his formidable yellings, " O-o-h my cellular dar- 
ling ! Oh 1 Thou scavenger of a Barry ! God 
curse thee ! " 'The best way of punishing a man 
was to put him in the neighbouring cell to 
Sayad's. The people of the block were relieved 
only when any of the warders or prisoners, 
unable to bear any longer the uproar, sent him 
a roll of Sookha. Sometimes, according to the 
order of the Jailor, water was poured upon his 
head as soon as he began to shout. It was Sayad's 
nature to suffer himself and make all others 
suffer. In the end, however, Mr. Murray took 
pity on him and released him from the prison 
by making him a guard in the garden of the 

i34 



SOME SNAP-SHOTS PROM PRISON-LIFE 

lunatic asylum. We heard that after this act of 
kindness he left off abusing altogether. 

Murga was another celebrity in the Kala- 
pani. His build was that of a Hercules. He was 
black, hairy, huge and ghostly. His bushy 
moustache would have quite easily made a good 
broom-stick. Mr. Barry would, with the simple 
bait of an extra dabbu of curd or a few plan- 
tains, yoke him to the oil-mill. Murga and his 
worthy compeer Shera could press out each 
80 lbs of oil a day. Formerly the amount of oil 
required from each prisoner was only 20 lbs. But 
now, by the grace of Mr. Barry and these two 
myrmidons of his, the amount was increased to 
30 Ib-^. When the Superintendent saw the ex- 
ample of a man who easily ground 80 lbs, he 
immediately concluded that every labourer must 
be capable of at least 30 lbs. It was in this way 
that the wily Jailor gradually increased the out- 
put of each and every item of work. The priso- 
ners enjoy no longer the golden days of yore. 

I met in the Jail some two or three young 
Burmese, aged only 16 or 17 years. The Bur- 
mese generally turn here opium-eaters, gamblers 



135 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

and vicious characters. But among them To-ah, 
Fon-ahn and another whose name I forget were 
really good souls. But of course that was no 
reason why they should not kill one or two 
people every year. The Pathans and the Punja- 
bis were nothing short of brutes and always 
pursued the young and fair and pretty Burmans. 
And when these refused to be drawn into sin- 
ning, they conspired with the Tindals and 
Petty Officers and brought endless trouble upon 
the poor innocent folk. All the prisoners have 
tobacco or some such contraband article in their 
secret possession and anybody can get anybody 
punished by playing the traitor. It was easy also 
to punish a prisoner by stealing a part of his 
daily output of work. Besides the Court was such 
that it did not hesitate to chastise any man sent 
up on a false accusation of assault or intimida- 
tion. Only I saw Mr. Murray trying to do a little 
bit of justice. Otherwise, it was all the justice 
of the sort meted out by our old kajis. Fon-ahn 
was hauled up several times for murder. After- 
wards we got him employed in the press as a 
paper-cutter. The good treatment that he receiv- 



136 



SOME SNAP-SHOTS FROM PRISO^f-LIFE 

ed there made him pass a year safely without 
any case put up against him and he was released 
from the prison. God only knows what is in 
store for him now outside. 

Kartik, a cobbler by caste, was a dacoit. 
Stout of heart, strong of body, full of enthu- 
siasm and battle, he ,took to dacoity as a game. 
In other respects he was a very kindly soul. 
The man whom he loved, he would serve with 
his life. One d^y Upen delivered to him a long 
lecture in the usual style on Hindu-lVIosIem 
Unity. He heard the whole thing quietly and 
dittoed it, but in the end put in a question, 
" What the little master says is all perfectly 
true, but can he tell me what would be the fate 
of these people who could never in their whole 
life utter even for once the sweet name of 
Hari?" 

He was not pleased, if instead of being called 
kartik, he was given the more gentlemanly form 
of his name kartic chandra. There was nothing 
that he could not do for his little master. He 
rendered all sorts of kindly services to Hemrfa, 
when the latter was employed in the forest. 



137 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

He had no equal in angling. 

Love and affectioii are all here, but very 
much deformed. Examples of one man sacrificing 
himself for the sake of another are to be found 
every day, but that sacrifice is polluted with the 
mire of vicious passion. 

There are even saintly souls here. Mathura 
Singh worked for 10 or 12 years in the prison 
and rose gradually from a Petty Officer to a 
Tindal. A more pious and gentle nature can 
hardly be met, I never heard a single word of 
abuse from his lips. His body did not imbibe a 
tinge of sin in this domain of evil. Sometimes 
indeed hethreatened to strike people and upraised 
his thirty-pounder of a fist, but as it landed it 
transformed itself into a caress and he got things 
done, as it wei^e, by magic. All his threats and 
menaces were like the vain demonstration of an 
autumnal cloud. He liad infinite sympathy for 
the convicts. He was ever filled with trepidation 
and his eyes rolled wide in fear of what the 
Sahib might or might not say. He could not 
take food or water without reading every day 
the Ramayana of Tulsidas. He was absolutely 



138 



SOME SNAP-SHOTS FROM PRlSON-LlFE 

simple, meek and innocent like a child. To lock 
up a man like him in a prison amounts almost 
to infanticide. In the end he was let off on 
ticket of leave, that is to say, he got the privilege 
of earning his livelihood freely to some extent. 
The Gate-keeper of the Cellular Jail was a 
man of Sagar, named Takat Sing. He had not 
much of English education, but seemed never- 
theless to be highly cultured. He could under- 
stand the great problems of the day, whether of 
India or of the world in general. He had been 
sentenced to transportation^ because a servant dr 
labourer of his committed a murder in connexion 
with a dispute about land or property. He was 
a good soul and belonged to a high family, but 
the effects of sorrow and suffering were now 
coming upon him gradually. You cannot uplift 
a man by punishing him. It is a gi eater crime 
than murder to corrupt a pure and innocent 
man by throwing him, into the very heart of vice 
and sin under the excuse of punishment. The 
Penal Code knows only to penalise, everything 
there is rigorously punitive. A man may commit 
murder all on a sudden under severe provoca- 



139 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

tion or uncontrollable impulse, but he gets trans- 
portation for life. Does he merit it ? In America 
the mental growth of a criminal is taken into 
consideration when punishment is awarded. A 
man may be 40 years old, but his intellectual 
stature may be that of a child of ten ; in such a 
case, surely the punishment should be propor- 
tionately less heavy. Besides, it is a grave res- 
ponsibility to take charge of a corrupt charac- 
ter. If I cannot reform him and render him his 
good character, what right have I to despoil 
him of his personal' liberty ? The day has cer- 
tainly come when these things should be 
thought over and the prison rules framed accord- 
ingly anew. 

Criminals of deficient or undeveloped 
mentality should be put in charge of sympathe- 
tic, noble-hearted and cultured men. But the 
Andaman arrangements do quite the opposite 
thing. Here the prisoners who are cunning and 
careful are never caught and their jail-tickets 
remain clean, that is to say, possess no black- 
mark due to any case or accusation. Generally 
it is these people who are later on raised to the 



140 



SOME SNAP-SHOTS FROM PRISON-LIFE 

dignity of a Petty officer or Tindal or Jamadar. 
The Superintendent, when considering the pro- 
motion of a prisoner, does not look into his real 
character, but sees only whether there is any 
case or conviction against him in the jail his- 
tory sheet. 

Mirza Khan was a Pathan. In the course 
of my Bohemain life I have travelled over many 
lands and seen much of men and things, but I 
have rarely met a more cunning, creature than 
he. He was a Petty officer, finally became a 
Jamadar and ruled many years over the Cellular 
with a mighty sway. In Satanism and vicious- 
ness Golam Rasul was a mere ignorant child to 
him. Uncle Rasul might have sat at his feel for 
10 years as a disciple and yet would have 
hardly reached the level of that red- bearded, red- 
faced, smooth-tongued Pathan. There were no 
prisoners so turbulent that Mirza could not put 
them down ; if ever there were they could be 
counted as one or two. " If God protects none 
can destroy, and if God destroys none can 
protect." The same thing could be said of Mirza 
during his rule in the Andamans. By his astute- 

141 



THE TALE OV MY EXILE 

ness and by flattery he held Mr. Barry under 
his thumb and did what he liked. In his reign 
the only people that were happy were the 
Pathans and those who gave themselves com- 
pletely up to him. For the rest it was a terrible 
purgatory. At the instance of Mr. Barry or when- 
ever he wanted to take vengeance, he could in 
the twinkling of an eye concoct cases against 
the most innocent, and as for the most daring 
and indomitable he heaped upon them punish- 
ment upon punishment, beat them, harrassed 
them till they were completely crushed. He was 
usually amiable towards the strong, but ferocious 
towards the weak. He intercepted the secret 
correspondence of the political prisoners, got 
them punished on flimsy technical grounds and 
it was by these services that he secured his 
Jamadar-ship. When he approached any of us 
with a friendly smile, sweetly addressing us 
"Babuji", it was certain that evil days were in 
store for the poor Babuji. We were in perpetual 
dread as to whose turn it would be next to fall 
a prey to Mirza Khan. 

The tyrant and the bully have generally a 

142 



SOME SNAP-SHOTS FROM PRISON-LIFE 

weakness for flattery. The only way of escape 
from Mirza was to accost him as Jamadarji, 
salaam him every moment and also to chat with 
Mr. Barry in his presence. All things were 
permissible to one who talked to Mr. Barry. 
There was another way and that was to have a 
strict eye over him. He was given to vice and 
bribe-taking and he tried his best never to 
molest one whom he knew to be in the know. 
If you ever gave him a hint that you v/ere 
acquainted with his secrets, he would immedia- 
tely come to buy you off with lemon or tobacco 
or some such thing. 

There was no end to the number of such 
tyrants and bullies among the Tindals and 
Petty officers and Jamadars. The prisoners, 
surrounded as they were with such a host of 
enemies, had always to be ready with means, 
fair or foul, to defend themselves. The one 
perpetual anxiety that haunted them day and 
night was how to save their life. And what a 
miserable life it was, when day and night you 
had to smile anyhow a wooden smile and do a 
thousand obeisances to your many masters ! 



143 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

The higher officials, either the Superintendent 
or the Chief Commissioner, do not know of 
these httle griefs of the everyday life of a pri- 
soner. They come only at times to inspect and 
do not live with the poor creatures, The subor- 
dinate officers, like the Overseer, know many 
things, but they too have their secrets. In the 
fear that their own delinquencies might be 
exposed they simply shut their eyes to those of 
others. They connive at everything incon- 
venient. An under officer like Mr. Duggon, 
who had really a kind heart could not do any- 
thing alone by himself and so had to remain 
quiet. He could see to justice only in respect of 
cases that came up to him personally. Then 
he tried his best to act up to his conscience and 
threatened the wicked and gave protection to 
the weak as far as it lay in him. 



144 



CHAPTER XI. 
A SUMMAEY OF SORROWS. 

'T^HE Jail commission appointed by the 
-'- Government of India came to visit 

Port Blair in January, 1920. I give below the 
gist of the memorial that was submitted to it on 
behalf of the political prisoners : — 

( 1 ) Port Blair is not fit for the habita- 
tion of prisoners for many reasons. 

(a) The climate here is very unhealthy. 
It is the home of malaria. Besides, dysentery 
and phthisis also find here a very congenjal 
atmosphere. The perpentage of deaths is more 
than double that of India. ,, 

(b) In no civilised cpuntry there is any 
place like this that is used even for trans- 
portation. Visitors, either official or non-official, 
do not come here generally. The means of 
remedy that are open in the jails in India are 
absolutely wanting here. 

(c) The Government of India incur a 
great loss for the upkeep of Port Blair. It will 

145 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

ever be a burden to the Government to main- 
tain for the sake of a comparatively small num- 
ber of prisoners 'such a tremendous army of 
guards, policemen, sentries and various other 
officers. ' :. ■' , . 'r-j i 

(2) If the purpose of punishrnent is to 
reform character, then certainly that end has 
not been achieved in Port Blair. Men who 
are already vicious become doubly so after 
coming here. So severe is the iron rod of 
rule here that people have perforce to learn 
lying and cheating simply for the sake of sav- 
ing their skin. And everybody is too much 
occupied with himself. To come to the help of 
others means courting punishment. So the 
nobler qualities of man not only do not find 
any play but are rooted out altogether. In other 
countries efforts are made to teach and educate 
the prisoners so that they may become better 
men. But here there is absolutely nothing of 
the kind. The system that is prevalent here is 
only another form of the old slave trade. 

( 3 ) No kind of differentiation is made 
between prisoner and prisoner. Those who are 



146 



A SUMMARY QK SORROWS 

punished for smaller crimes are made to live 
with veteran and hardened criminals. As a 
result, they too contract all the viciousness p^ 
the latter. 

(4) Character is usually, formed through 
the influences of family and social life. Thq 
prisoners are deprived of any such amenities. 
They cannot even write letters to their homes 
more than once in a year. Affection and sym- 
pathy and all the softer sentiments dry up very 
soon in their hearts. They even cease to care 
about their future release. The prisoners gon- 
demned to transportation for life are not let off 
eyen after 20 or 25 years. It is no wonder that 
people whose future is one mass of dismal dark- 
ness should either become inert, insensible, 
machine-like objects or turn cruel and violent 
and vicious. 

( 5 ) And yet although they toil as slaves, 
they do not enjoy the fruit of their labour. 
The Government condemns a murderer to trans- 
portation for life and extracts an infinite amount 
of work out of him. But not the least portion of the 
benefit goes either to the family of the murderer 



147 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

or even to the family of the murdered. Their 
children, through want of money, do not, it may 
well be, get any education. Perhaps finally 
these innocent creatures run riot and become 
lost souls. The Government refuses to recognise 
that it has any duty towards them and yet it 
does not shrink from appropriating the product 
of the labour of its prisoners. 

(6) Some of the works imposed upon the 
prisoners, such as cutting wood in the forest, 
preparing brick and lime, extracting rubber are 
really so difficult that very often (hey try to run 
away in fright and many commit suicide when 
not able to get back home. Particularly, the 
Petty Officers and Tindals and other underlings 
are so corrupt and so tyrannical that the ordi- 
nary prisoners have to suffer most woefully 
in their hands. It > is almost impossible to get 
any redress for these wrongs. 

(7) There is no arrangement for decent 
medical treatment. First of all, prisoners are 
often refused admission in the hospital, for there- 
by the work su£f^«;. And then even if they are 
admitted, they do not get proper medicine or 

i' 

148 



A SUMMARY OF SORROWS 

diet. Besides; the hospital contains phthisis pati- 
ents also. There is no separate ward for these, nor 
for dysentery patients nor, as a matter of fact, fof- 
any infectious disease. There is almost no ar- 
rangement for surgery. The task of looking after 
the health of about 800 convicts devolves upon 
a single sub-assistant surgeon. He has to attend 
the patients in the hospital and after that he 
finds hardly any time to see the condition of 
the prisoners within the Jail. The MedicaL Su- 
perintendent comes only twice or thrice a week 
to inspect the Jail ; for he has the charge of 
other hospitals in Port Blair, including the 
female hospital as well; So many duties have 
been imposed upon one man that he cannot do 
anything properly well. 

(8) The prisoners are allowed to marry 
after a period of 10 years. Then they may go 
out in the villages and take to cultivation or any 
other occupation. But the females number so 
small in proportion to the males that most of 
the latter get no chance at all to marry. There 
are of course thcJse who are already married 
before but their wives and children generally do 



U9 



THE TALE OF Uy EXILE 

not want to come to Port Blair and live with 
them. And then the women who are lodged in 
prison as convicts are of such a type that many 
shrink from building a home with them. Almost 
a new race has evolved from the alliance of 
convicts and convicts and their moral sense of 
family and social life is simply revolting. The 
only remedy of all these evils is to make some 
arrangement that the prisoners may after ^ certain 
term get back their wives and children and hve 
with them. 

(9) Those who after ten years becomp 
" self-supporters in Government Service " get in. 
the beginning a monthly salary of Rs. 7 only. 
Out of this amount the sum of 8 annas is dec 
ducted every month for lodging in the Govern- 
ment barrack. With the remaining six rupees 
and a half one has to meet all expenses ag re- 
gards food, clothing and every other necessity. 
Under such circumstances it is quite natural for 
the prisoners to take recourse to stealing. Of 
course they are punished when caught. But who 
is really responsible for this- crime and vice of 
theirs ? The current rate of monthly allowance 

150 



A SUMMARY OF SORROWS 

was fixed long ago; since then ^ prices of all 
things have gone up at least three times. But 
there is none who cares to give even a chance 
thought^ to the difficulties of the prisoners. They 
are merely machines to turn out work for the 
Sarcar. They are not men. 

(10) There is a considerable number of 
boy prisoners in . Port Blair whose ages vary 
from 17 or 18 to 20 or 22. They are kept under 
the charge of Petty Officei;s and Tindals; who 
are mostly unmarried and have no character. 
The revolting oppressions they have to suffer at 
the hands of these latter cannot be described in 
any decent human language. The very shame 
of it often prevents them from complaining to 
■the authorities ; and even if they do, it is more 
often than not crying in the wilderness. 

If really any improvement is desired, the 
first thing to be done is to break up the esta- 
blishment in Port Blair. If it is desired to re- 
form the character of the prisoners, then family 
life must be introduced among Iheni. But the 
wives and children of ordinary prisoners would 
not like to come over to Port Blair., And y€t 



151 



THE TALE OF MY KXILE 

society is absolutely necessary ; without it no 
moral amelioration is possible. 

If the Settlement is continued in Port 
Blair, the mere financial difficulty would make it 
impossible to look to the necessities of health 
and hygiene. The former Senior Medical Offi- 
cer Dr. Farnside and the present Officer 
Dr. Murray have both of them recommended 
the abandoning of Port Blair as a penal settle- 
ment. As a matter of fact, no useful purpose is 
served by keeping up Port Blair, save perhaps 
maintaining a few unnecessary and unworthy 
officials. 

POLITICAL PRISONERS. 

The political prisoners have to suffer much 
more than the ordinary prisoners. The standing 
orders of the Government are that they should 
be treated exactly in the same way as the latter. 
The consequences have been that they not only 
have all the ills of the latter to their account, 
but do not enjoy many of the rights and privi- 
leges which the latter are allowed. An ordinary 
prisoner, if he knows reading and -writing. 



152 



A SUMMARY OF SORROWS 

may in the end go outside the Jajl and get the 
work of a munshi or a clerk. But the politicals 
are shut up all through within the prison. 
They are all educated men, but most of them 
have to pass their days in making ropes or 
pounding coir. 

The classification of the ordinary convicts 
is not at all applicable to the political prisoners. 
These should be grouped separately and given 
better treatment. To force and coerce and op- 
press them is useful to neither party. The illi- 
terate do not suffer at all for want of books and 
papers. But it is not the case with political pri- 
soners. And yet the Government has made no 
arrangement as regards the supply of what is a 
necessity to the literate. The few books that 
were collected in Port Blair were the property 
of the political prisoners. The Government did 
not spend a single pie over them.^ 

Thq political prisoners are prohibited from 
talking to each other. So if more than one fall 
ill at the same time, they are not taken to the 
hospital but are kept locked up in separate cells. 
There is no arrangement for proper ventilation 



153 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

in these cells, except through a very small sky- 
tight. Even a healthy man feels suffocated in 
such a place and the feeling that one has, when 
ill and left alone, should better be experienced 
than described. 

One does not get proper food and nourish- 
ment but has to undergo physical labour to 
which one is not accustomed. One does not 
get proper treatment in illness but has to suffer 
punishment at every step. But the greatest in- 
fliction is to lead one's life under the orders of 
low and ilUbred people. It will unhinge any 
man even, jn ordinary circumstances, not to 
ppeak of a prisoner, to be so hunted and insulted 
all the 24 hours. It is quite an inevitable eventu- 
ality that many should try to find release through 
suicide. Those only whose hearts have turned 
to stone can bury their pain and count their 
days in the hope of a future. 

What is the meaning of this tragedy ? Is it 
to be called just punishment or revengeful op- 
pression ? 



1S4 



CHAPTER XII. 

A PERSONAL WORD. 

A^UR friends and relatives are certainly anxi- 
^^ ous to learn how we all passed our days 
of grim calvary in the Andamans. But it is not 
possible for any single man to know and tell the 
inner history of so many minds. So I will speak 
of myself only and that may perhaps incidentally 
offer a glimpse into the secret movements of 
other hearts that suffered the same sorrows and 
shared the same pains. 

I was in a state of sweet self-intoxioation, 
almost beside myself in a sort of overwhelming 
beatitude, when I was counting ray last days, 
with the halter round my neck and shut up in 
the " condemned cell". I was then face to face 
with Death, and alone and away from the world, 
I was playirtg with it most amorously and trying 
to snatch the veil of the beloved one. For Pain, 
its messenger, had already whispered into 
my ears, " Behind that dark veil there is the 
most radiant 'and soul-entrancing beauty". So 



155 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

the more I was bent upon tearing off her cover- 
ing, the greater was the obstinacy of my beloved to 
disclose herself. You will perhaps ask me, "Were 
you not afraid of death ?" Indeed I was and it 
was therefore that tears flooded my eyes, through 
all that sunshine of happiness, when I listened to 
the order of Jianging. It seemed to me that this 
time God was going to take away by force every- 
thing — my soul and mind and body — what I could 
not in any way give up to Him. It was ever my 
lot to harbour in my bosom the ragings of a 
thousand confusing emotions at the same time. 
I was shaking in fear, my heart was beating fast 
and yet a delight of entire consecration welled 
up into tears. My sorrow-stricken and prostrat* 
heart was lamenting, " O God of Love and 
Beauty ! I yearn for the touch and smell and 
sight of thy infinite playthings of this world. 
Do not put out the light that yet brightens my 
earthly home. I shall not find relief in death, 
for now is my time of sweet honey-moon. The 
hour is not yet come when my insatiate desires 
would have found repose in thee and when 
dying would be sweet with thy Presence trans- 

156 



A PERSONAL M'ORD 

fused in my soul ". And my soul' at th'6 saittfc 
time, full of renunciation and ascetism, in a 
yogic equanimity, chanted in an opposite strain, 
" As bubbles of water rise out of water and die 
down in water even so the mind melts away in 
nothingness". It was, as it were, that the same 
house witnessed at the same time a sombre fu- 
neral and a joyous festivity. I do not know if 
anybody else had a similar experience, but thus 
it was with me. 

Life demanded me still and so one day 
I learnt that my death sentence had been com- 
muted to transportation and that I must give up 
hoping for death and prepare' myself, in return, 
to be buried alive. Then the curtain lifted again 
over a new enactment of life's double strain of 
pleasure and pain on the stage of the Andamans. 
Those who dwell in pleasure and seek pleasure 
most certainly feel an unbearable pain if all on 
a sudden a crash and catastrophe befalls th6m. 
Their whole soul cries out for the happiness that 
is no more. But the calamity that struck us 
down was of our own making. It was we our- 
selves who opened the way for the evil and in a 

157 



THE TALK OF MY SXILE 

way welcomed it. A pain that we invited on 
ourselves, however lacerating, could not natu- 
rally overwhelm us. The more we suffered, the 
more it made us smile. The course of true love 
is never indeed smooth. The dangers and diffi- 
culties of the way lend an added zest to the 
venturing spirit. And yet pain is pain and we 
felt the suffering. No doubt, we were free-lances, 
though without the lance, but we were creatures 
of flesh and blood. 

Our sorrows were many. The greatest of 
them was the want of company. The orders 
were strict that we should not talk to each other, 
even though we might be close together and in 
the same block. What a wail we smothered in 
our hearts when we walked together, eat together 
and worked together and yet could not open 
our mouths 1 We could indeed steal glances, 
whisper a half-uttered word now and then, but 
allthat served only to increase our suffering. 
Whenever we were caught unawares in our un- 
lawful conversation. Uncle Khoyedad thundered 
out, " you Bengalees, be a bit modest !" It was 
a task, indeed, always to be "modest" in this way. 



158 



▲ PERSONAL WORD 

We accused the gods and chafed and murmured 
within, "This is not what we expected. We 
admit that we rushed to the deliverance of our 
country, but is that a sufficient reason that we 
should be ever confronted with the grin\aces and 
threats of these whiskered Kabuli duennas ? And 
who the deuce possesses such an infinite fund of 
modesty as to be able to draw upon it intermina- 
bly at a moment's notice every now and then ? " 
As if we were no better than the living baggage 
that is known in Hindu Society as the divinely 
modest and obedient and devoted consort! Could 
the fates be more perverse? That was how we first 
experienced the woes and terrors of the Purdah. 
The food difficulty was not so very pain- 
ful in the beginning. But as days wore on, the 
disma! monotony of the same dish every day — 
rice and dal and Kachu leaf — began (o tell 
upon our nerves. The farther we left behind 
the atmosphere of the motherland and the 
more we inhaled the air of the Andamans, the 
greater was our repulsion to food and the keener 
our discomfort. It was the mere sense of duty 
and the cruel necessity of hunger that made us 



159 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

eat. The amount of moderation and contrpl 
that we achieved was a thing certainly to be 
coveted even by the Yogis. ,i 

Poor famine-stricken India also might 
have taken a wholesome lessonfrom ourexaraple. 
It is said, that the cow of a Brahmin eats 
very, litle but yields plentifully both milk and 
dung. We too were something belonging to 
the same category. A prisoi^er eats little, but 
, toils quadruple-fold. The daily ration per meal 
is as follows — Rice 6 oz., flour for rati 5 oz., 
dal 2 oz., salt 1 dram, oil | dram and vegeta- 
bles 8 oz. No distinction is made here between 
prisoner and prisoner. A ravenous giant like 
Koilas and a grass-hopper like me were both 
given the same quantity of food. 

The only hopeful feature of the situa- 
tion was that one did not require much eating 
in this country. A few days communion with 
the air and water of Port Bl^ir is sufficient to 
uplift you to the supreme stage of dyspepsia. 
And whatever hunger and desire are left, dis- 
appear altogether when you know of the 
marvellous banquet that awaits you ! So one 



160 



A PERSONAL WORD 

can easily imagine what a delight it was for us 
toi get, after a year or two of : the same old 
routine, any variation in the shape of sweets or 
some thing else however trifling. One day 
a Pathan warder, Sayad Jabber by name, 
while on duty at night, brought me secretly 
a dish of meat, I do not know whether any 
food prepared by the famous Draupadi herself, 
could have been as savoury as that dish, with such 
a gusto did I devour it. Another day a veteran 
convict named CharHe gave me to eat ordinary 
roti smeared with sugar and fresh coconut oil. 
I can say quite honestly that even the Mihidana 
of Burdwan never tasted to me so sweet. After 
the life of suffering and want that we led in the 
Andamans the lot of the rich rolling in luxury 
and surfeited with daily banquets appeared to 
us really pitiable. There are none else who have 
been so cruelly deprived of the joy of the palate. 
Even kings do not know the heavenly delight 
that a pauper feels when in the midst of his 
life-long misery he gets an occasion or two to 
taste a dainty dish. Hunger is the best sauce — 
that is a siinple truth that is always true. 



161 



THE TALE OF MV EXILE 

Another thing which poisons Hie in the 
Andamans is the want of freedom. What a joy 
it was for us, when after a confinement of two 
years in that huge pile of bricks, called a prison, 
we found ourselves free one day, outside in the 
Settlement, on the occasion of the King's Coro- 
nation ! I drank in with my insatiate eyes, like a 
passionate lover, the beautiful vision of a Nature 
dressed in green and displaying her mountain 
tresses. 

The jail authorities know very well what it 
is for a man to lose his liberty. It is for this 
reason that a convict has been deprived of free- 
dom ; and again when that freedom is restored 
to him it is done slowly, gradually, step by step 
through a long process of fiery ordeal, making 
him, as it were, pay for each dole. In the begin- 
ning the man is shut up day and night in sepa- 
r;ite confinement. Then he is let off in a veranda 
fenced with iron railings. After that comes a 
larger freedom in the yard and in the workshop. 
And finally v. hen the period of imprisonment is 
gone through, one is free outside in the settle- 
ment. Now there are no walls around, no night- 



162 



A PERSONAL WORD 

mare of Petty Officers and warders and Sahibs 
at your heels to terrorise you. Yet even then, 
on leave-days and at night, you have to come 
back to be shut up in the barrack and present 
yourself at the roll-calls. 

After a life of two years' strictly guarded 
confineftient, even that partial freedom in the 
wide bosom of Nature was Very sweet to me. 
It was a balm to my soul, so cruelly deprived 
of all joy, to be able, on days of leave, to wander 
about as I pleased in the quiet tranq\iillity of 
the green woodlands. And yet that delight was 
not all delight, poisoned as it was with the 
thought that I must return soon to my daily 
toils and pains. 

Generally a prisoner when he has worked 
outside for five years becomes a Tindal or Petty 
Officer and draws a monthly pay. We had never 
the fortune of enjoying such a large freedom. 
Not only that, even after undergoing imprison- 
ment and compulsory labour for 10 years, we 
were not promoted to the *' first class " and had 
not the joy of being self supporters on Re. 1 a 
month. The-self-supporters who are let off on 



Ids 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

ticket of leave can marry, if they like, from 
^mong the female convicts. It is not even illegal 
for them to choose their partners from the free 
population, provided the Chief Commissioner 
grants a permit. Also the free convicts who 
already have their wives and children at home 
can call them over here and live with them. If 
the sudden miracle of our release did not happen 
we would have got perhaps the right of self- 
supporting. As a matter of fact, something was 
being arranged to that effect. 

Through all this sorrow and suffering and 
oppression and despair the' only companions 
we dearly cherished were books. Nowadays, 
I hear, third class convicts can send and receive 
letters three times a year. But in our time we 
were allowed to write only once a year and it 
was also only once a year that we received news 
of our friends and relatives. Labourer convicts 
can get from their homes cloths, shirts, utensils, 
books, slates and other articles that are not very 
costly. But we were given books only ; if any 
thing else came it was stocked in the godown. 
Those of us who had the means at home could 



164 



A PERSONAL WORD 

get some 20 or 25 books per year. All the books 
were kept in the Central Tower and every Sun- 
day morning one book was given to each for a 
week. In the end, however, we exchanged books 
as often as we liked with the help of the warders 
and managed even to possess more than one 
book at a time. It was a regular festive occasion 
whenever any one of us got a parcel from home. 
And how we planned and plotted to steal books 
and what a joy it was for us when we succeeded! 
The struggle for life made us pucca thieves 
in many other ways. We would steal salt, chili, 
and tamarind from the kitchen and coconut 
from Number Seven. What a delicious chutney 
we made out of these ingredients ! Even half- 
baked bread and mere rice when mixed with 
that thing could taste like heaven's ambrosia 1 
It became almost a second nature to us to steal 
and eat the tender coconut, and drink its milk. 
And of course there was no end to the amount 
of torn rags and coconut oil we stole in order to 
clean our iron plates and dishes that had the 
nasty habit of always getting rusted. We got over 
the trouble only when we, were allowed monthly 

165 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

pay and could buy brass utensils. 

After about six years we got permission to 
cook our food ourselves. Our kitchen was a hut 
with tinned roof, about 5 cubits long and 3 
cubits wide. Cooked rice, dal and rati were 
supplied to us from the prison kitchen* We pre- 
pared only vegetables, egg or fish that we bought 
in the market. So gradually our daily meal came 
to be after all not a bad thing. We four of us 
got 12 oz. of milk per head from the SaTcar. 
That was used for our morning and afternoon 
tea. The last two years of our stay we prepared 
even pilao, luchi^ meat and whatever else we 
liked on the Durga Puja day and the Christmas 
day. Hem Chandra and Upen were star-artists 
in cookery. So it was they who did the daily cook- 
day. And what surprises they flung on me every 
day with their novel and unheard of prepara- 
tions ! I cooked only on Sundays. We formed 
even a vegetable garden round about our kitchen 
with chili plants, mint and gourd-creeper. Our 
time for cooking was between 10 and 12. 

There is joy in a picnic, because it is a no- 
velty and a matter of only once on an occasion. 



166 



A PERSONAL Word 

But only the dumb toilers of our zenana know 
and we also knew to a certain extent what it is 
daily to shed water through your eyes and nose 
in lighting the oven, to get half cooked yourself 
in cooking and after that to rub and clean the 
utensils. Then only we learnt that one and one 
do not make a couple but that the wife forms 
the major portion, the husband is only a frac- 
tion. Upen used to heave deep^sighs and lament, 
"Alas, only the Goswamis are happy in Bengal. 
I once saw a Goswamiji sitting under a tree, in 
a beatific and ecstatic pose. One sevadasi ( a wo- 
man devotee ) of his was massaging him with 
oil ; for it was time for the master to take his 
bath. Another was arranging and preparing the 
materials for cooking and a third was blow- 
ing with her beautiful lips at the oven and was 
busy cooking ; for the master should be served 
with the offerings of the devoted. And yet half 
a dozen more had gone out into the village 
singing and begging alms, for the master re- 
quired ganja, tnalpo (cakes) and also bhoga 
for the night ". I do not know what sociology 
says about it, but that polygamy is of immense 

167 



THE TALE OF MY EXILE 

utility in Port Blair would be readily conceided 
when it is remembered that there after the 
day's heavy and crushing toll one has to dp 
one's own bed, one has to massage one's own 
Umbs. 

And yet our delight was not small even in 
the midst of such sorrows. For it is a thing that 
belongs to one's own self. One may gather it 
as much as onS likes from the inexhaustible 
fund that is within and drink of it to one's 
hearts' content. Not that, however, the lashes of 
sorrow were an illusion to us. Even the Maya 
of Vedanta did not always explain them away, 
so often had they a solemn ring of reality about 
them. But a tree requires for its growth not only 
the touch of the gentle spring, but the rude 
shock of storm and rain and the scalding of the 
summer heat. Man remains frail and weak and 
ill developed if he has an easy and even life. 
The hammer of God that builds up a soul in 
divine strength and might is one of the supreme 
realities. 

THE END. 



168 



BOOKS 



BY 



SKI AUROBINDO GHOSE 

Speeches ... 

War and Self-determination (2nd edition ) 

Ideal and Progress (2nd edition) ... 

Superman ( „ „ ) ... 

Evolution ... 

Thoughts and Glimpses 

Ishopanishad 

Renaissance in India ... 

The Ideal of the Karmayogin 

Yoga and its objects ... 

Uttarpara Speech 

Brain of India 
' Yogic Sadhan (?nd edition) 
' Ahana (2nd ed. in Press) 

* Baji Prabhou 

Love and Death 

Arabinder Patra (In Bengali) 

Dharma O Jatiyata ( „ ,, 

Gitar Bhumika ( „ ,, 

Kara Kahini ( „ „ 

Pondicherir Patra ( „ „ 



8. A. 



1. 


12 





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BARINDBA KUMAB GHOSE'S 
* The Tale of My Exile ... ...180 

To be had at Arya Publishing Honse, 

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